Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hammer in the Mix - TechCrunch 40's Second Day

Okay, today is the day that MC Hammer is going to be at TechCrunch40. I missed seeing him yesterday, but going to hound him for a photo today. Just because I can. And, I did.

On more of the community, today it is interesting because I have not heard community being trotted out as much. Maybe people are reading me, or more likely they heard too many times people calling out community when it did not make sense. It's okay to have a Website that is not in search for a community, but rather a service for business. And, that's fine: let's not forget that B2B is a viable business model.

Xobni: they are excited to be here. Discover email's social networks, view full conversations, organize people/conversations and export into an address book (phone numbers, etc). An Outlook (or other email) add-in that highlights other connections, other emails, other networks (such as social). They went for humor, and it sorta fell flat.

Orgoo: Access and organize all your conversations in one place (email and IM). For those real old skool people, it's Yodlee version 2.0 (the original Yodlee that aggregated all your emails onto one page). Also integrates chat and file sharing and video chat. Also has a widget for other pages, like blog or MySpace.

App2You: From what I can gather, it's like APIs for the masses, where anyone can develop a Web app. I think. That's one thing I'm noticing here: the presentations are not crisp and sharp.

Mint: It's Yodlee 3.0 (the second version of Yodlee). Aggregates your financial information, but so you can classify and track your personal transactions (checking, credit, debit, other bills). The site also finds you the best services, etc, for credit cards and other bills.

Kerpoof: Change the ways children interact with computers. To be a top destination site for children, where fun and learning are the same thing. Children can write a story, make a picture, or make a movie. Interesting idea, not sure it goes far enough, but one of the ones I like the most here because it's not the same old thing that is only adult-oriented. Broderbund for the 21st Century, as coined by Kawasaki. Nice old school reference.

Spottt: LinkExchange for blogs, and new media. Brought to you by Philip Kaplan, and part of Adbrite, and has the original LinkExchange (Tony Hsieh) on board as an advisor. Makes sense, as many bloggers continue to try to increase traffic, but want links that make sense. But, at the same time, not sure how active it might be as established bloggers don't care about exchanging links as much as when they started out.

Clickable: Manage and create search ad campaigns, over various networks. Wait, there's more than just Google AdSense?!!

GotStatus: Server side Google analytics. Totally over my head, but it's systems management market that Gartner has as continually growing at a brisk rate.

Pubmatic: Tons of ad networks, tons of publishers - it's a mess for publishers out there, so the company helps auction off advertising to various ad networks. Simplify the process of ad network purchasing, for best prices over the various networks.

ZocDoc: How to find a good doctor and make an appointment, like OpenTable for doctors. User generated content and feedback, so Yelp-esque there with peer reviews. Of course, the reviews I found for a dermatologist on Yelp were filled with Marina kids that had no idea what it costs to go to the doctor, nor what insurance covered. So, it might be audience-specific to get good reviews.

Extreme Reality: Mouse-free computing using your hands through the air. So, 3D interfacing with the computer. Reminds me of that bad Dilbert cartoon that mocks the virtual reality keyboards.

Broadclip: Unfunny people should not try to be funny during presentations. Gimme the straight skinny, not puff and pompery. There was no presenter, just a VHS recording, in a monotone ... could be cool, but it should have been an in-person presentation. Apparently, Tivo for Internet radio.

mEgo: Profile aggregator, instead of multiple profiles and post anywhere on line. Similar to Canter's People Aggregator, but better looking founders, interface and avatar-based where it's placed as a widget on various sites. Future features inclde non-avatar based professional version, and mobile-versions. Also will have to contend with 6A's work on identity portability, when it gets off the ground.

Wixi: Media aggregator for your media on various sites and networks. Or the media you want, all on one page. Is this like Dabble - well, with pictures and audio as well?

BeFunky: Turn videos and images into cartoons. We had that at Ofoto with PictureIQ seven years ago (I had a few cute photos that way, including my dead dog Spencer and living dog Perry).

Flowplay: An avatar-based gaming network that involves clubbing, games, tokens for virtual goods (yep, I like the virtual goods angle). Teen oriented, with shopping, meet-ups and games. Somewhat like Kaneva.

Metaplace: Alpha today, open beta in the Spring. Avatar is like AOL from 1994. Put data in, never comes out - and virtual worlds don't work like the Web does. Metaplace takes virtual worlds and makes it easy on an easy-to-use site. Being funded by Susan Wu, whom I respect a lot, so going to watch Metaplace. Virtual worlds for anyone, play anything, from anywhere.

WooMe: Online speed dating (just saw SpeedDate in the Demo Pit) that connects people on similar interests. Niklas Zennstrom is in the demo - is he an investor? Seems like it could be done easily with Skype, and I actually wrote up a case study about a couple that met on a dating site, then started calling on Skype (and if there was video at the time, would have spoken via video).

Zivity: Wanna-be Suicide Girls, but I know some of the people behind Suicide Girls, and I would bet on them everyday of the week, and twice on Friday. They get community, and I didn't get that sense that they did here ... it was more about money and throwing it away to people. And, just serendipity that Sean Bonner Twittered this at the beginning of their demo.

Kaltura: The winner of the 40th spot at the TechCrunch40 event. Second was Tanglr, and third was DanceJam. YouTube meets Wiki is their 30-second pitch - a collaborative way to create content together.

So, from a PR perspective, was the conference a success for the companies here? Well, yesterday it was on the top of TechMeme for a while, and that is the bump that the community gives (per my post yesterday). And, that is a great way to launch - but once again, that is not enough for any company to launch nowadays. You need a continued PR program (something that Web 2.0 companies fail to recognize) and think beyond just the 30- or 60-day cycle.

In the next few days, I'll write my post on the Demo Pit - those companies did not get as much play, and there were quite a few of them that should have been on stage rather than some of the companies that I saw these past two days.

New photos from second day are here.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Community of TechCrunch (and the TechCrunch40)

I'm sitting here today at the TechCrunch40, listening to various companies pitch their wares to the people and press that are attending (I'm here as invited press, so will give overview of the companies and what I thought).

I have been thinking about community lately - and how community is involved in PR (and how we have lost our way in community). And the real interesting thing for me here at the TC40 is the community of TechCrunch. We all know that if your client / company is on TechCrunch (the site), you get an immediate bump of 100K+ members / views of the site. You potentially get those people to sign up for your beta preview, or to try out your service (it's a number game). So, the TechCrunch community (CrunchNotes, MobileCrunch, Crunchgear - and all its readers) is an early adopter community - or one of a lot of MBA students - that is looking for the next cool thing.

But, well, is that community enough? Thinking back to two sites that had a big push on TechCrunch - Riya and IILWY - do you really hear much about either? As a PR person for a start-up, or Web 2.0 company, you really do need to court TechCrunch for that bump, but it is not a long term community. These are not necessarily the people that are going to continue to use your site, but are the first (albeit big) push into community. Look at Riya - they never really moved into the photo community (one I know quite well from Kodak and Ofoto) and that could have kept the company, well, relevant.

The point here, though, is to look at the TC40 companies, and to see what they are doing for the various communities and how they are doing their pitches.

Powerset: an interesting idea - real search via real words - but going up against a powerhouse in Google. Is there an opportunity for a non-niche / non-vertical search engine (there's a reason I'm bullish on TheFind, SimplyHired, etc - they fill a need that is not fully met) - but not sure about

Cognitive Code: pretty cool AI application that responds to voice commands, and talks back to the human. Think HAL, but not sure if it's going to kill people. (Just a joke). The demo ran through working with the AI application on the desktop, but talked about CES announcements. Om Malik picked them as a survivor on their own.

CastTV: search for video across the Intenet, up-to-date of the latest videos. Like I noted prior, I like vertical search, and this one aggregates various video sites per term. A supplementing of metadata goes into the search and program. Om thinks they are an acquisition target.

Faroo: P2P search engine. From what I could gather, it's search powered by a P2P network (like Skype? like the UFO project?) and decentralizes the Internet. I think.

Viewdle: Another video search engine - "it's in the cut" - that is based on video-on-demand. No more tagging, etc. It's automatically done with the searching and recognition. So, it's facial recognition in video, that can aggregate other videos that the person appears in. Om thinks they are an acquisition target.

Cubic Telecom: Roaming for mobile phones, but gets rid of the mobile roaming costs via Max Roam that charges only the local rates for international calls, no matter where you are. Cool idea, but can see the carriers killing it. It's minute stealing, as noted by Om - and an outside chance that they are going to be around.

Yap: Speech-recognition for the cell phone, that does involve an aspect for vocal search. So, think of text messaging that can be done via speech to the phone - so convert to text your speech (like for Twitter or to friends). Prety cool idea but not sure the viability, or how it can be done with other speech recongition companies.

Ceedo: Mobile virtualization. See all your images, etc from a PC-based program (like Picasa). Or, make edits from your phone on PC-based applications, a full browsing environment on your mobile phone. You can use PC's as a terminal for your usage, via your mobile phone. First thought is that unless you're on an iPhone, isn't the screen too small to really do anything?

Loudtalks: Walkie Talkie for cell phones. It's a wanna-be Skype. I think. Or, an IM program that is voice / talking. Ryan Block noted that it can just be a plug-in, or maybe as a widget on web pages as push-to-talk.

Trutap: Targeting teens - I love when middle-aged white men target teens (okay, sounds creepy) - in an all-in-one social network that extends all carrier networks, so all your friends are in one community. Mobile-based, only - but with a Web-based aggregating of the information, logs, etc. A sorta Facebook Mobile competitor, with more instant chat capabilities. Om notes them as most likely to be acquired.

Storyblender: Videos together - how to create videos with a bunch of other people. Comes from the creators of Cyworld, so, there is some street cred (and a US-client for disclosure). It's online video collaboration, where you can add text, information, etc.

Tripit: The goal is to make travel "dead simple" and make the itinerary simple and easy - without all the pages to print. It's not about booking, but managing your travel information. You email your confirmations to the site, and it aggregates all your information for one travel itinerary - and then does weather, directions, etc for the user. It's a personal travel assistant online.

Flock: Um, why are they are here? I thought it was a start-up only conference, and Flock can't be considered an unknown startup. I stopped listening, because it continues to be half-vapor. Ohhh, they are finally in a 1.0 version.

Musicshake: It's about user generated media, in an easy way that belies any musical skills. You can add different sounds, vocals, guitars, etc to create your own music, as well as record your own voice for vocals. And, you can sell the music if someone finds it on one of the sites, as shared revenue.

8020Publishing: The rebirth of the published magazine, and modern publishing is the best of Web and the best of print to come together. They are the founders of JPG Magazine. Launching the new Everywhere magazine, a group travel magazine.

AOL (special preso): Share multimedia memories in a new way with Bluestring. The way I read it is as online scrapbooking, with the AOL twist. I have a special place in my heart for AOL, so I think I'll give it a benefit bc they are an amazing community that gets the short shrift online.

Cake Financial: The power of the community to invest. What are your friends investing in, and should you. Also aggregates all your investment information onto one page (if you have multiple accounts at various brokerage houses). Business school guys will go nuts for this, the average consumer would likely not want to get involved in opening their own kimono.

Docstoc: Finding the documents you need quickly and easily. For free. The examples given were sample business plans, presentations, etc. Most likely user: college students looking for papers. Think of it as the online file cabinet from the fraternity house.

Teach The People: Peer to peer collaborative education. Running a learning community that shares in the advertising revenue generated, or charge people for classes. Interesting way to do things - the collaborative nature of education where people share their knowledge (or them smarts) with others.

CrowdSpirit: Crowd sourcing from France, but for products rather than just Websites. It's all about consumer electronics rather than just Web 2.0 / Websites. Interesting take on crowdsourcing, but going up against the large manufacturers and new economies.

Ponoko: Make your own products, toys, jewelry, etc and have them delivered to your house. You upload the images, etc and you get the final product. So you create it, we build it for you. You can also sell your idea / designs to other people, so they can order the product.

The interesting thing to note from the first day at the event is that many of the companies emphasized the community aspects of their sites. Community has become a comfodified buzzword (like they were all told to emphasize their community aspect), and not sure if they really understood what the community should be. Yes, these companies today are going to get a bump at the conference in users, but at the same time, can they keep that interest for the long-term beyond the bump....

Oh, you can check out the rest of the Flickr photos here.

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