Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Your Marks

At the Start Conference last week, although it was not a "deal flow" event, we did get to hear some pitches from some startups. We usually see thirty or forty companies at a GCN event, all of them explicitly seeking private investment, so it was interesting to see a few companies that were simply giving some examples of pitches (and that weren't coached by us).

There were a couple of companies with some market traction I wanted to feature here. Hopefully, we'll feature them at a future GCN conference, as well. But for the benefit of our investor network, I though it worthwhile to mention them on our blog.

Apture provides publishers with multimedia integration capabilities. This post is littered with examples of how it works. Pretty simple; you just highlight the text you want to associate with multimedia, and a box pops up with examples of relevant content from all over the web. You select the item (or items) you want to link and Apture does the rest. When the reader mouses over the link, windows pop up with the linked content. Really just about the coolest thing since draft beer.

Get Satisfaction is a customer service community platform that enables customers and the companies they do business with to interact, collaborate, and resolve issues. A user can ask a question, report a problem, or share an idea about how to get the most out of the product or service. Businesses can respond directly to address the issue, and other users can join in with their fixes, workarounds, hacks, and other advice. So far Twitter, LinkedIn, Doppler, PBWiki are using Get Satisfaction to create stronger relationships with their users. I expect a lot more will, as well.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ready? Begin.

Big fun last week at the Start conference. About 400 aspiring entrepreneurs filled the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco to hear from successful startup vets, service providers, and private investors.

Structured as a series of conversations moderated by Bryan Mason and Jeffrey Veen, the discussions included war stories, practical advice, some comedic horseplay, in an interactive web 2.0 environment.

This last element was the least successful, and the part that I most wanted to see in practice. As it happens, when you put hundreds of laptops in a small room with insufficient WiFi coverage and next to no power outlets, the utopian vision of open source brainstorming quickly becomes clouded. But the idea was cool, even if the execution was less than ideal. I'm sure next year they'll do a better job of that.

Still, some folks did manage to get their questions and comments through to the online moderator, George Oates using Twitter (I gave up on the laptop after lunch and followed the virtual deliberation on my cell phone) and Meebo.

We've been putting on events for entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture partners for going on a decade, so I was especially curious to see this program. In part because I didn't know anything about it until about four days before it happened. I hadn't seen any conventional marketing; no email blasts, no broadsides, no partner communications, etc. I learned about it through a tweet from @missrogue, who casually told the 9000+ people paying attention to her Twitter stream that she was registering for it.

Naturally, I followed the link she thoughtfully furnished, signed up, and went down for the program. What was very interesting to me was that this was not being presented by a conference organization like GCN, IBF DEMO, etc., but rather it was dreamed up about two months ago by Mason and Veen, and cultivated virally through the various social media proliferating like mushrooms after a hard rain.

And it was a pretty good show, too. Some nice features included the interactive engagement with the audience (which could have worked better, but still cool), the peer-to-peer content, and the craft-brewed draft beer during the afternoon break.

There were also some very interesting new companies giving their venture pitch, about which more in the next installment.