WebInno10 – 1/30/07

Back in July I attended WebInno7. After the event I went and wrote about it and was kind of a dick. I questioned how the companies that presented were going to make money, succeed, grow, etc.

Well, in the past six months, I guess I’ve gotten a little smarter and a lot more comfortable with the way the Web works today. (In my defense, I’d be working at a company where staying current wasn’t always that critical.) Last night’s WebInno was great. There were some cool companies presenting and some interesting side dishes as well.

The three main dish companies – the ones that were given five minutes to present on stage – were MyPunchbowl.com, Goombah and GuildCafe.

GuildCafe kicked things off. They described themselves as “online gaming meets LinkedIn” and explained that the service is a way to find and create communities of online gamers. Their growth as been strong and has mostly come through social networks. The model didn’t seem especially clear but they are succeeding in building a large and growing community. As an occasional gamer myself it was interesting to hear how people are trying to build businesses and communities around games.

The second company to present was MyPunchbowl.com. I’d gone to their site before the event (as I did for all of the companies there) and thought, “gee, online party planning, where have I seen that before,” before I clicked away. After their presentation I was impressed. What they have seems easier to use than eVite and has more, better and more flexible features. I also liked the ways they have integrated with party retailers and services like Flickr. I’m planning a party for mid-April and am going to be using MyPunchbowl to put it together. One thing I’d like to see them do is allow multiple people to work together on planning a single event.

Goombah was the only one that I signed up for before the event. Billing itself as a “music discovery service” Goombah analyzes the play history of your iTunes library and matches it against those of other members to help you find new artists and tracks. I know there are similar services out there but Goombah seems good to me and I’ve found some tracks through their free music recommendations that I’ve liked. They also link to Amazon, iTunes and Napster to allow you to purchase tracks that you find and like.

I didn’t get a chance to speak with all of the side dish companies – they were arrayed around the edge of the room – but I did manage to talk with two that I thought were interesting. The first was TrustPlus. These guys are working to make reputation portable – so that feedback made about you on eBay can follow you to Craig’s List, Backpage and beyond. When I first saw their site, I thought that they were doing something around identity portability and persistence – which is very interesting to me – but that isn’t the case. Which isn’t to say that what they are doing isn’t cool and important.

I didn’t much care for the fact that the system requires a TrustPlus email to work or that people can choose to make comments made about them private; but the ability for peoples reputations to follow them around the Web is very appealing. Seeing what they are doing also made me think more about what I am doing in association with SNCR. I’ve been thinking about identity, transparency and persistence; but now realize that reputation needs to be added to that mix.

The way I’m thinking about it is that identity is what you say about yourself, transparency is how open and forthright you are with your identity, reputation is what others say about you and persistence is the stability (or consistency) of your identity and reputation regardless of the context. I’ll have to continue to give this more thought.

After I spoke with the guys from TrueConnect, I bumped into Greg Boesel from SwapTree. When they presented back in July I was pretty down on the whole idea. As I said up front, I’ve gotten smarter or something over the past six months. Greg and I had a good conversation on issues of reputation in online transactions. He has some good ideas about ways to improve giving and getting reputation that made sense to me. As far as he’s concerned, as long as the seller receives their payment, they ought to give the buyer positive feedback – and the seller shouldn’t be able to see the buyer’s feedback until AFTER they have posted theirs. He believes – and I agree – that this would result in a real decline in sellers ratings but probably an eventual improvement in seller performance.

The other company that I saw that I wished I’d had more time with was SpotStory. They are focused on helping people find and share interesting locations. As someone who likes history, geocaching and Flickr, this sounds like a great idea. It’s hard to imagine that it’s going to become the basis for a gang-buster business but it’s easy to imagine becoming a part of what they are doing.

The last people I spoke with were from Zync. Yesterday morning I went through all of Zync’s questions (more than 300) – imagining that there was going to be some sort of cool surprise waiting for me at the end – that wasn’t the case. As it turns out, this is a sort of an experiment and a means to collect information for their yet-to-be-launched social search service. What they are ultimately planning sounds cool; I just wish I’d known before hand what I was doing . . .

Anyway, that’s WebInno10 in a nutshell. It was a good night and a promising crop of companies and conversations. It was nice to walk out feeling less cynical than I had six months ago.

[tags] WebInno, MyPunchbowl.com, GuildCafe, Goombah, TrustPlus, SpotStory, SwapTree, SNCR, Zync, online gaming, reputation, party planning, location, music, sharing[/tags]

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