WebInno14 Scorecard

Another WebInno is in the books and they just keep getting bigger and better. I remember the first one I attended, in July 06, there were probably 75 people in the room and I was impressed. Last night, there were more than 600 people registered for the event and judging from the size of the crowd it looked like most of them showed up.

There were nine companies at the event and I was able to catch up with seven of them at the event. Here’s how what I saw stacked up with what I expected. . .

Main Courses

Frame Media – Frame Media does content and tools for wireless digital picture frames. As screen prices come down and our expectation to consume content goes up, it’s easy to imagine more and more placements for these types of devices. And it makes so much more sense than either non-digital signage or ones that need wired connections or on site updates. Content that can be changed on the fly depending on the time of day, specials, proximal demographics, etc. Sounds pretty cool to me.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – I have high hopes for this one. Partly because I can get a bead on it very easily and also because it fits well with the increasingly visually cluttered world we seemingly have chosen to create for ourselves. I’m expecting that this is going to be very gee-whiz and glitzy.

Chances that I’m way off base – I guess it’s possible but I don’t think so.

I missed this one by a mile. For some reason, I assumed that they were targeting commercial screens – airports, malls, coffee shops, etc. – and if that had been the case it would have been cool. Instead, these guys want to wirelessly send content to people’s personal frames – news feeds, Flickr photostream, etc. So far, so good. The problem is that some of the content they will be sending is advertising. Like we don’t get enough of that shoved into our heads already . . . There is a no ad option, but that will cost you around $5 per month. Five bucks to have my content streamed to my device? No thanks. There are already plenty of options out there for streaming content is it is – but of course those are more involved and not so easy as what Frame Media has to offer. So I could see it as being pretty appealing for non-tech savvy relatives – but will they have wifi? And do you really want to give someone something that’s going to push ads?

Pushed content – no matter what it is – can get annoying after a while.

GoLoco – As someone on the verge of giving up his in-town parking in favor of public transportation (starting October 1st . . .), I’m pretty interested in what GoLoco is doing. Basically this is a ride sharing service that lets you meet and connect with people with a shared destination (more or less) on Facebook. I signed up and checked it out and while there were 24 rides in my area, none of them were especially helpful (of course I didn’t enter any of my own travel needs either . . .). I like the fact that they are working within an existing social network but wonder the degree to which this will limit the potential member base.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – I really want to be wowed. I think it’s a great idea and I only hope that they get enough critical mass to make it happen.

Chances that I’m way off base – I think I get the idea here and am confident in my expectations.

While I wasn’t wowed – I still think this is a solid concept. The fact that it’s only on Facebook is a temporary limitation (they are planning to tap into other networks in the future) and the model – 10 percent of the fee – seems easily lost if people just agree on a direct payment.

DesignMyRoom – My daughter loves any number of virtual world sites that let her design and furnish living spaces for whole armies of avatars. Looking at DesignMyRoom, I got the feeling that this is the grown-up version – the big difference being that this site gives you the means to translate your online fantasy into reality by generating a shopping list of the materials and items you’ll need. They remind me a little of MyDesignIn which was featured at WebInno11.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – Well, MyDesignIn was pretty cool so I’m expecting a lot from DesignMyRoom.

Chances that I’m way off base – Not high, I think that what they are doing is pretty straight forward and they seem to have the relationships needed to make this work.

I liked this one – it was simple, solid, had a clear utility and business model, legit partner relationships, solid offering all around. It is different from MyDesignIn in that MyDesignIn is more focused on the nuts and bolts of remodeling – can I put the sink here, how much room do I have for windows on that wall, etc. DesignMyRoom is much more about the fun design side of things – how would these drapes look with this couch, should I put a hutch against that wall, etc. It is a faster and more fun process. The fact that it shows the items and quantities you’ll need for a project is also very nice – it makes the design you’ve done on your screen something you can imagine doing in real life. Color me impressed.

Side Dishes

Fafarazzi – There are few things in the world that I hate more than celebrities. That makes this company – which offers a fantasy-sports style game based on how often your celebrity appears in the media just about the most terrible thing I can imagine. If you are into tracking how often these people appear on the pages of Us, go crazy but count me out.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – I would be wowed if this were based solely on celebrities taken out of circulation by incarceration.

Chances that I’m way off base – Not a chance.

So these were the first guys I saw when I walked in and I was kind of primed to be a jerk just because I hate the whole idea of celebrities. The thing is, the guys behind this are cool and it’s not a bad idea. To capture the jock crowd, they’re doing Dirtlocker – which allows you to create a fantasy team of athletes based on their publicity rather than their on-field performance.

SNIF Labs – A few years ago I worked with Streambase. They were focused on processing real-time streaming data. Their founder, Mike Stonebraker, used to talk about the coming wave of sensor-based data. Somehow, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. SNIF provides a wearable tag that monitors a dog’s movements throughout the day and allows that data to be analyzed in a number of ways. It sounds cool but I have to wonder about the real utility of this. I mean dogs and people have been together for thousands of years and it’s hard to imagine that knowing exactly when your dog took a crap or humped someone’s leg is going to enhance that relationship.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – All that said, I will probably want one of these. If not for my dog, I may attach it to myself to get a better sense of what I with all of my time.

Chances that I’m way off base – With this one I’m not so sure, I’ll bet I have it wrong.

I was kind of bummed that this wasn’t a real time feed. Basically, when you get home, you pop the sensor out of Fido’s collar and put it on a base station. That base station send the data to your computer where you can pour over the day’s canine antics. Lots of people seemed to be into this company but I don’t know, I feel like it’s a violation of trust, you know what I mean? The fact is though that it’s a cool technology and the guys behind it realize it has more interesting future applications. For the time being though, it’s all about the dogs. You’ll be able to get one in time for that holidays for around $200.

The UpDown – Do you remember how popular day trading was in the late 90s? Maybe you were into it yourself or had friends who were? Well, The UpDown Investing Community seems intent on bringing back those thrilling days of yesteryear. But instead of investing individually and directly, UpDown seems to be creating a fund that is managed based on community input and analysis. I’m looking forward to a conversation with these guys, the idea seems interesting but it’s not a simple story.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – High to very high. I’m not an especially money-centric kind of a guy so it doesn’t take much to impress (of confuse) me.

Chances that I’m way off base – Pretty high. I am also not stupid so it may turn out that this isn’t really that cool.

TheUpDown describes themselves as “fantasy sports for investors” and that’s a pretty apt description. Members are given $1M to invest as they see fit. The collective intelligence of the “investors” is used to manage a real fund – a portion of which is distributed to the most successful members. I’m less confused than I was before but I’m still not sold.

Guitar Star – Guitar Star is just one of several titles by AdME (Advertising-driven Mobile Entertainment. I read the site and was kind of confused. Who are they marketing to – users? carriers? content companies? I’d imagine that the carriers are the key but the way they describe the product on the site sure sounds like it’s targeted at consumers.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – Rockin’ out on my cell phone keypad doesn’t get me as excited as perhaps it ought to, maybe once I see it and try it I’ll be blown away.

Chances that I’m way off base – I don’t think so . . .

I didn’t have a chance to see Guitar Star – sorry about that . . .

Mobleo – Think del.icio.us meets the cell phone. I like the idea of being able to bookmark sites on my phone. Navigation can be so annoying on my phone that anything that makes it easier – whether better bookmarking or social bookmarking is good news as far as I’m concerned.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – I have pretty high hopes for this one and am looking forward to checking it out.

Chances that I’m way off base – High, I could find myself dealing with a cryptic interface and a whole lot of no fun.

I also didn’t have a chance to check this one out either.

Oncero – Looking at this site, I wondered, “how is this different from LinkedIn?” They promise the ability to find qualified candidates through referral networks. Obviously this is a good idea but there seem to be plenty of ways to do this already so they’ll have to demonstrate a differentiation that didn’t come through on the Web.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – Very low. First of all, this isn’t an issue that touches me very directly and secondly, I am already involved with so many social networks that the idea of another one that is so focused has limited appeal.

Chances that I’m way off base – Pretty high, I can imagine that they’ll show me something that is cooler that I can imagine.

The idea here is that people don’t really use their referral networks very effectively when it comes to recruiting and I can believe that. When the issue has come up at work, I give it thought for a few minutes but then my mind drifts to other things. These guys think they have a tool to help make referral recruiting work. At its root is money – money for referrals. Now most companies do this but very few do it outside of their employee base – Oncero lets you do that. They also let you see who among your network has viewed a position, how actively they’ve shared that position with others, etc. The demo showed some very fine data – to the point that it might be too much for a non-hiring manager to wade through. I can imagine that if you were a hiring manager (or an HR person or even a business owner) this would be a very cool and useful too.

So that was the line up from last night. It was a good set of companies, a good crowd and a great time. There’s no event in October (which is a bummer) but look for WebInno15 in early November. And let me know what you think of my assessment of these companies – was I right or wrong? I’d love to hear.

[tags]WebInno, Frame Media, GoLoco, DesignMyRoom, Fafarazzi, SNIF Labs, The UpDown, Guitar Star, Mobleo, Oncero[/tags]


4 thoughts on “WebInno14 Scorecard

  1. Hi Greg, it’s Greg from SNIF Labs [http://www.sniflabs.com], I am glad that you had a chance to catch a glimpse of the SNIF Tag at this week’s Web Innovators [http://www.webinnovatorsgroup.com]. I enjoyed chatting with you and all the other insightful folks at the meeting Monday.

    There’s no need to be bummed, the SNIF Tag does have a real-time feed available up to 60+ feet off the base station. A few other things to note for clarity’s sake:

    The SNIF Tag, which works on a proprietary wireless protocol, transmits data to the SNIF base station; the base station subsequently uploads information to the secure SNIF website. However, when the dog is out on a walk or further than 60 feet from the SNIF base station, the SNIF Tag continues to collect information on the dog’s state (whether it is running, eating, sleeping etc), energy and encounters with other dogs wearing a SNIF Tag. When the dog is back within range of the SNIF base station, the SNIF Tag then uploads that information to the base station.

    The only time the Tag needs to sit on the base station is for charging, which in our current test devices is about once a week.

    Of course, the ‘real utility’ of this depends on the user. Some people want to know and see what their dog is doing in real-time, while they are at work; or how long their dog walker really took Fido out for. Our initial reserach of more than 500 individual dog owners also shows that they want to get to know other dog owners in more detail but don’t always feel confortable doing so in person. This is where the social networking element comes in – it’s not just about enhancing the relationship and understanding between man and dog, but helping humans to build relationships online and in person.

    One last note about privacy: the SNIF Tag shares basic information about the dog with other dogs encountered wearing the Tag, such as name and breed (this is customizable) and then the owners have the option of sharing more and making the fellow dog owner a ‘friend’ online – in a trusted social network that has one foot in the real world.

    We are currently in production with an expected launch date set for the Holiday season.

    I am more than happy to discuss how the Tag works in more detail, please drop an email to greg at sniflabs dot com if you’re interested. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you at the next WebInno!

  2. Thanks for the clarifying comments Greg. Sensor-based data is very interesting and the ability for people to collect, share, interact and form relationships base on it seems cool. I’ll drop you a note as well.


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