New Tech Meetup Sept 2 recap

Ah yes, I remember blogging. Now that Techstars is over, I’m planning to really be back at it. I always go into a lull in the summer. Thanks for staying with me. 😉

So here’s my live blogging of the New Tech Meetup that happened tonight in Boulder. I’d say about 200 were in attendance tonight, down from around 300 last month. Robert did something great this month – for each company that presented there was a slide up on the side of the main screen showing the name of the company, url, what the company does, and what help it wants from the audience. Super helpful.

First there were some announcements.

Printfection announced $10,000 reward for developers they hire.

Ignite Denver is happening next week.

Then several companies did 5 minute presentations.

Fling It Girl showed off their “digg for womens products”. Looks like a straight up (although pink) digg clone targeted at stuff women would like. They reported that in a month they figured out that nobody wanted to submit products to the site (lots of lurkers/users, but very few content creators – shocking!), but instead the community wanted content to be pre-populated and then use the social ranking features. I like this change – they find cool stuff and populate the system, and then the community elevates the content. It was awesome that when asked for financial projections, they said “we have none – we expect to grow to infinity and beyond.”  Honesty and a no bullshit approach is often so refreshing.

Sports Data Hub is a Denver based startup for football data analysis for gamblers, fantasty football players, and football fans. ESPN has called it a “very impressive product.” They plan to add more sports over time and they want to be come “the place to go” for detailed sports data. They showed an awesome analytical example of passing completion percentage organized by referee. There is one referee who has a noticeably higher rate of calling completed passes when he works. They dove into why and they showed a clear trend of this referee coming in and out of the game and the passing percentage changing literally right along with his entry and exit. They even looked at how specific quarterbacks are affected. They showed how there was obviously a correlation using some neat charting. Really cool example – although I can’t imagine what the cause is. Perhaps it’s simply a coincidence inside a sea of data. If you live and breathe sports, I can see how this would be very addicting for the data lovers.

Next up was App Venture which makes software that makes software. They showed off “Foundations” – a great looking tool that allows you to model your data, properties, etc. The tool generates C# code for .NET. There is a ton of competition in this space ranging from Yahoo Pipes to Popfly to IronSpeed. Colorado’s own Hypersites reminds me of this in some ways. I was involved in that company and as one astute audience member pointed out, these things often drift into consulting driven businesses because of the expertise required to get up to speed on the tools. I’ve found these sorts of tools to be fantastic for generating simple applications, but they generally suck at helping you with the actual business logic. They’re great to help set up frameworks and get simple apps rolling. This looks like a product that could be extremely useful in certain situations – it appears to be very professionally done and well thought out. I like that it’s an open and extensible (non-proprietary code generation) – that differentiates it from some of the stuff I’ve seen out here. The product just launched about a month ago and I think they said it sells for around $700.

Then we heard from Navaraga. Luckily, they’re changing the name to (sounds like “com-myoon”) soon so you don’t have to learn how to pronounce Navaraga. The company is hoping to solve the problem that “collaborating on email is not working.” Kamune will be an online collaboration service, similar to an eRoom. It appears to try to overlay a geographic taxonomy on top of your data. The demo was pretty weak – I think mostly because they’re trying to introduce an entirely new paradigm and collaborative operating system and didn’t give much thought in advance of how to effectively introduce this in 5 minutes. The presenter broke the cardinal sin which was that he “told” more than he “showed”. I’m interested to see more – so I’ll be watching the site as this evolves to see if the benefits they espouse begin to surface. My initial concern is that they’re fundamentally trying to change user behaviors and I wasn’t able to see much in terms of “bridge” technologies to make existing workflows (emails, etc) to the new system. The audience was (correctly in my view) providing lots of feedback that their messaging around “reducing email” was confusing and not really a good way to help people understand the product. Sure – it can reduce email, but explaining it in an elevator pitch as email reduction really gets in the way of understanding what this complex piece of software really does. Hopefully they heard that. I’d like to see this company come back to the meetup with a more thought out approach to the demo for this forum. It’s going to be key for them to be able to explain this product in 60 seconds. It can be done.

Then we heard from Orchestr8 which can be used to create widgets from any web site. I covered this in January of 2007, and the product is fundamentally the same but the user experience has come a long way. This tool suprasses what their nearest competitor Dapper can do, as far as I can tell. However, Orchestr8’s messaging and presentation don’t see as clean as Dapper, perhaps because the technology goes deeper and is more complex. Orchestr8 is a really handy way to mash up web content and reuse it (again, ala Yahoo Pipes). The team here is obviously really talented and the technology is very deep – if you’re interested widgetization of content, this one is worth checking out. The company attempting to raise a multi-million dollar Series A around now, as a follow on to a past investment of $500k from angel investors.

All in all this was a high quality meetup this month. Some cool technologies, a few laughs, some food, and a bunch of geeks. What more could you ask for?

file under: Blog, Startups