Our colleague Caroline Kawashima has been live at TechCrunch50 over the last couple days. Here are her thoughts on Day 1.
By Caroline Kawashima
As many of you know, there has been a much-publicized battle between DEMO and TechCrunch this year, with both producers holding their events the very same week. This makes it challenging for media, VCs and other attendees to physically attend both. Given that TechCrunch 50 is in our backyard (DEMO ’08 is being held in San Diego), I decided to keep it local by attending the TechCrunch50 conference at the San Francisco Design Concourse over the last couple days.
Many of you are well-aware of Michael Arrington’s growing influence in Silicon Valley and beyond – this year he was approached by both presidential candidates for his endorsement during the primaries and blogged at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But for those of you who are new to the conference, Arrington began the conference just last year to provide a platform for early-stage, frequently unfunded, companies to launch for the first time to the international media and the technology industry’s most influential venture capitalists, corporations, angel investors and entrepreneurs. Companies are selected entirely on merit and do not pay to gain access, something which Arrington touts in a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News as being a key differentiator, suggesting his own approach as more “ethical.”
On Monday morning it was noted that in just one year, attendance has grown from 1,000 attendees, 600 applicants and 40 featured start-ups to more than 1,700 attendees, 1,038 applications from 49 different countries and 52 of the “best and brightest” technology start-ups.
Here are some of the interesting new technology start-ups, in addition to Ashton Kutcher’s venture, that we’re going to start seeing a lot more from in the coming year.
Hangout.net – Enables 16-24 year olds to bring off-line, social hangout activities on-line by combining the casual Web with immersive 3D. Think “My Space becomes MyPlace” where each user has their own room or room(s) that are highly personalized, stylized and private virtual 3D rooms where they can invite their friends to hang out and share their media experiences (voice chat, photos, videos, music and games) in real time. I thought this product was really cool, especially given the numerous opportunities for online product placement and trial. Angel investor Ron Conway noted that with this new offering, product placement was going to be a brand new market opportunity that we should watch for online.
Tweegee.com – Destination site for Tweens that lets them express themselves creatively and safely in an innovative and customized online environment. Tweegee integrates social networking, digital content and interactive tools that allow them to create personal web sites, communicate via Web-based email, organize activities with an online calendar and create personalized avatars. According to the founder, this is MySpace and Facebook for the Tween set who want more engagement beyond the limited online environments of Webkins and Club Penguin.
DotSpots – Really interesting new venture from the founder of BizRate.com and Shopzilla. DotSpots brings the wisdom of crowds to every meme on the Web, and leverages what they call “automatic semantic matching” to distribute each contribution to every instance of that meme across the Web. The first release of DotSpots will focus on improving online news (mainstream media, blogosphere and citizen journalists) by identifying and indexing semantically similar content across millions of news sites and blogs, while empowering bloggers and individuals to annotate text on their local favorite sites with comments, videos and photos. Google’s Marisa Mayer noted this new start up as really cool, so we’ll be sure to see this venture take-off.
LiveHit – A new “social discovery service” showcasing who and what’s hot in the moment across the social web, it’s a highly personalized social navigation engine and custom GPS system to discover contextually relevant and rich media content and people. While the current offering still needs some additional work, the concept was noted as being of increasing importance in the future, as consumers grapple with how to effectively manage and identify the most compelling and up-to-date content across various personal networks.
StockMood.com – As a PR person, I found this offering to be of particular interest as a means of further validating that the quality of news can impact a company’s stock price. StockMood.com is the first product by Quant the News, a start up that has developed and deployed advanced textual sentiment analysis applications that leverage its unique, AI-based natural language processing and data mining technology. StockMood.com is a website that analyzes news stories about companies, identifying their sentiment, and then measuring the potential impact on a company’s stock price direction.
Another highlight was Google’s special launch announcement at TechCrunch 50, a new search and archive tool through Google News Archive for old newspapers. By using the search tool, users can now look up old newspaper articles, view them in their original print format and zoom in/out with the Maps navigation tool to view ads, photos and other articles and content on the page.
In addition to the top 52 companies that are being showcased, 70 start-ups are on site in the Demo Pit, many of which are launching either today or this week. There are too many to mention but all I can say is that video and social media is everywhere, from platforms that allow you to make your own music, create your own art galleries to animating your own videos.