Daily Dozen – Boston-area Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Here in Boston we have an event called WebInno. It’s been going on for years and attracts a great crowd. The idea is to have local innovators and entrepreneurs talk about the companies they’re starting and demo the technology to the community. I went to my first one five or six years ago and was impressed to see 75 people at the event. Now, there are more than one thousand people attending the events. The next one is on Monday, March 5th and if you’re in the Boston-area you should definitely stop by. You can register on Eventbrite.

This is actually the first of two posts I’ll be doing on WebInno this week. This one is a set of faces of people who have been at the event over the years with their ideas and companies. I’ve added some details on each of the companies in case you’d like to learn more. The second post will be a preview of the companies that will be participating at Monday’s event. I’ve been writing these previews for a few years now. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head and sometimes I miss by a mile. Such is life. Here are links to some past previews: WebInno32, WebInno31, WebInno29, WebInno28 and WebInno23.

In the spirit of transparency, I want to say that I’ve recently started working more formally with WebInno, mostly helping generate content for their blog and social channels. It hasn’t really changed anything since I was already generating the same kind of content on my own (and will continue to). Anyway, here are 12 faces of people with bright ideas.

Face - man with glasses holding iPhone
This is Matt Cutler, co-founder of Kibits. Kibits is a nice social connection and collaboration app/platform.

Face
This is Andreas Randow of TourSphere. TourSphere really impressed me when I saw it, basically it’s a platform that allows the creation of museum or city tours. As someone who once was a ranger at Alcatraz, I appreciate a good tour.

Faces
This is Liz Zalman of MediaArmor. MediaArmor is in the mobile advertising space and basically helps advertisers port all of the things they currently do with traditional display to mobile.

Face - @sethwlieberman - CEO of Pangea Media
This is Seth Lieberman, the CEO of snapapp. It’s a really simple self-service site for creating branded polls, survey, questionnaires, etc. They have some awesome customers and it looks great.

Face - @j_peden, CEO of Crave Labs
This is Jeffrey Penden of Crave Labs. They do a platform to help local businesses – mostly restaurants – market more easily using social and mobile channels. It’s pretty cool.

Face - @royrod - cofounder of SocMetrics
This is Roy Rodenstein, the cofounder and CEO of SocMetrics. SocMetrics is a service to help you ID influencers in a ton of different categories – you name it and it’s likely they’ll be able to tell you who blogs, tweets or posts about it the most (and which of those people actually matters the most). As a PR guy it seemed like a cool tool.

Faces
This is Jennifer Fremont-Smith of Smarterer. They’ve created a platform to understand and evaluate people’s skills in all kinds of technical, social and digital skill. There’s an update on how they’re doing on the WebInno blog.

Faces 31
This is Jon Radoff. He presented his company GamerDNA at the second WebInno I attended and he’s incredibly active in the world of gaming. His current startup is Disruptor Beam. They’re still in beta.

Faces
This is Amram Shapiro, founder of Book of Odds. This is a site to help you understand the odds of things in everyday life. It’s neat.

Susan Hunt Stevens of Practically Green
Susan Hunt Stevens, founder of Practically Green, presenting at WebInno29. It’s a very cool company that helps you find ways to live a cleaner, more sustainable life. Check it out, take the quiz, register and explore.

Face - smiling man with beard
This is Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. They’re an Internet marketing company over in Kendall Square that’s doing very well.

WebInno23 Preview

It’s Sunday and I’ve only just registered for Tuesday’s WebInno 23. I was number 952. That’s absolutely crazy. Almost 1000 people. When I went to my first WebInno in July of 2006 I think I counted about 100 people was was impressed. It’s awesome how the community here in Boston has grown and how central WebInno has been (at least for me) in fostering that community. Hats off to everyone who’s had a hand in making WebInno what it is – from Dave and the rest of the organizing crew to all the companies that have shown off their stuff over the years. Excellent work.

So what’s on tap for Tuesday night and how do the various companies look to me? Let’s have a look . . .

Main Dishes

Book of Odds – I like this. There’s not much to see but the idea is pretty awesome. They’re saying it’s the “missing dictionary – one of numbers.” There’s something mystic and mysterious about numbers and creating a compendium of them seems like something out of Harry Potter. Their demo is being billed as a “pre-launch sneak preview.” I will be watching this one with anticipation.

Epernicus – Where Science Meets – Seems to be a social network for scientists, a pretty cool idea. But since I’m not a scientist (despite my best efforts at pretending sometimes) it’s hard for me to judge the strength of value of the offering. From a layman’s perspective though I wasn’t overly impressed. The home page did a poor job of explaining the value of the site (at least to me) and when I went into the directory to see a few profiles I wasn’t that impressed by the depth or quality of the content.

Now there were certainly some profiles that were really awesome – but there were more than a few that were hardly populated at all. In total, there are more than 16,300 profiles. I don’t know if that’s a big number or not. I’m not terrible impressed by it but I don’t know how long the company has been around so it’s a bit hard to judge.

One of the things I like about the site is the idea of each members genealogy. While I didn’t see a clear explanation of this – I gathered that it’s a visualization of advisers/professors/colleagues/mentors/mentees/students/etc for members. I like the idea a lot – it’s a great way to conceptualize someone’s intellectual lineage. Unfortunately, in order to see the profiles behind the names you need to log in. I think as a tool to explore linkages between ideas it would be better open but I can understand the desire to encourage registration.

Overall I applaud the concept of Epernicus but have concerns about the execution – I’m looking forward to seeing the demo and having a chance to talk to the people behind the company.

BatchBook – WTF? These guys want people to PAY for their product? Didn’t anyone send the memo? Everything is supposed to be free . . . I mean come on, putting a link to sign up and get pricing right on the front page? Puh-leez.

Kidding aside this one is awesome. It’s essentially a really powerful and full-featured Web-based contact management system. They call themselves social CRM and I guess that’s a good place to start. Not only does it have pretty much any function you could desire – from a simple contact list to collecting recent posts and comments from your contacts to integrating with current email and calendaring systems – but they do an incredible job of explaining the major areas of the service.

Click me impressed – they really seem to have thought this through very thoroughly. I can’t wait for the demo.

Side Dishes

ClickFrames – Build web apps with a single source of truth for every member of your team. Whaa? What does that even mean? I didn’t realize that Web app team members were on a quest for truth in the first place. Here I am being rude but I’ll be honest – I don’t really get what these guys do – but in my defense, they really don’t go out of their way to explain it very clearly. Maybe you understand it and can explain it to me Golden Book’s style if you see me on Tuesday. Otherwise I guess I’ll check them out myself and will try not to seem too stupid as I ask my questions.

BetterLesson – Create, Organize and Share Your Curriculum. There have been a few curriculum sharing companies at WebInno over the years and I’ve been impressed by many of them. I really like the look of BetterLesson. I wish I could better recall some of the other ones for comparison; but on its own, these guys look pretty polished.

Baydin – I’ll be honest, back when I had a job (and let me just say not having one sucks) I used email as my main file system. I think that’s true for most people. I’ll also say that finding all of the relevant information in this ad hoc system was no breeze. Anything – and I mean anything – that could improve this process would have been great. That’s what Baydin promises. I like what these guys are saying they can do, I like their attitude and approach. I’m looking forward to meeting and hanging out with them a little on Tuesday.

The Idea Startup – Powering Entrepreneurs. Empowering Ideas. I can’t say I have a really clear idea of what this tag line means but that’s OK. They’ve done a good job on the site of explaining what they offer. I have to imagine that in today’s economy a set of tools designed to make it easier for people to get their ideas off the ground will fare pretty well.

Happn.in – Local Twitter Trends. This is fun but is it a company? Sure, it’s kind of cool to see what the top trends in various cities – what can explain that “Mark Twain” is the top trend in Anchorage, or “Zombie Fart” is number one in Edinburgh – but how valuable is it? I’ll check it out and am following them but after a deep breath I kind of only have a sigh.

Tripleseat – Book More Faster. So I go to the site and I see the tag line. OK, book more what I wonder. I look at the top of the browser window and see “Restaurant Industry Catering banquet software.” Hmmm. This is pretty specialized software so who am I to judge. I’ll probably send the link to a friend who’s been in the restaurant/catering business for a while to see what he has to say.

So there’s my totally subjective thoughts on the companies slated to be at WebInno on Tuesday. There are some pretty cool ones, a few that don’t do much for me and a couple that I’m gonna need a hand getting my head around. If you have any thoughts or insights on any of these companies I’d love to hear them. No matter how you slice it I’m looking forward to Tuesday night and hope to see you there.