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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

WebInno 31 Preview

Tomorrow’s the big day! WebInno 31 is happening over at the Royal Sonesta. That means it’s time for me to go off half-cocked and share my thoughts on the companies that will be participating at the event. It’s a good lineup as we head into Fall. There are some common themes this time – better tools for sales and marketing are the obvious ones but maybe you’ll see more as you read.

Anyway, here’s my preview of the companies you’ll see tomorrow night. Enjoy!

Main Dish Companies

SnapApp – Engage and Acquire Customers – Basically the company lets brands (or agencies) create interactive apps to engage customers/prospects/follower/fans and then to use the output to develop a better understanding of those people to market to them more effectively (while marketing to them through the apps in the first place). Ideally it creates a virtuous cycle to marketing, feedback, refinement and better marketing.

This is interesting because of some related work we did for Crowdtap (CrowdTap http://crowdtap.com/). We got them very solid results – Fast Company, MediaPost and TechCrunch to name just a few.

Anyway, I think this is a totally solid idea. SnapApp lets brands do these things out on the social networks where people are already spending their time. This seems pretty sensible to me. They have a good-looking customer mix (PC World, NPR, Timex, Clorox, OpenTable, etc.) and some solid looking case studies. I’m looking forward to seeing their demo, hearing their rap and talking to them at their demo station.

SocMetrics – I’ve been going to WebInno for a while now. Since 2006 I think. Over the years there have been several companies that have talked about measurement in the social space. A few of them have been pretty cool (Crimson Hexagon always seemed neat). SocMetrics seems cut from a similar cloth.

It’s one thing if you’re always trying to reach the same influencers – sure, there may be changes from time to time but your ecosystem is going to be fairly stable. It’s another matter when you need to be switching gears on a regular basis. I do work with Captivate Network for their Office Pulse research. The first one we did was on work spouses, the next was on bad bosses and we recently did one on work-life balance. Trying to ID and understand who is talking about and influential in a case like this is tricky and I’d love it if SocMetrics could help. I have high hopes for this one.

Yesware – Email for Salespeople – I don’t think of myself as a salesperson but I guess maybe I am. They have a short – but helpful – little video on the how the service works. It seems very cool. Basically, it layers on top of Gmail and lets you categorize the function of the email (prospecting, follow-up, etc.), provides fully editable templates for each type of email, offers tracking tools to understand when the email was received and read, features management tools to keep the communication flowing through the sales workflow and integrates with popular CRM systems.

It all makes sense to me. They also have a pretty solid blog that seems (remember, I don’t think of myself as a sales guy) to be chuck full of good ideas and advice for using email as a more effective sales tool. I’d really love to talk to someone using the service to get a sense of how easy/effective it actually is. Perhaps they’ll offer details in the demo.

That is something that’s always a little challenging at WebInno – plenty of companies come in with awesome looking/sounding ideas but they’re often so early (the beauty of WebInno) that they haven’t been put through their paces by real customers dealing with real problems. On the face of it Yesware is terrific, but the proof is in the pudding and that’s probably not quite ready to taste.

Side Dishes

GoodTwo – Good Deal. Good Cause. – The site offers a “fun and easy” way to raise money for a cause. Fun and easy are probably my two favorite words in any context. Fundraising isn’t really my bag though. I’m happy giving people money (it’s easy if not exactly fun) but asking for it? That doesn’t seem easy OR fun.

GoodTwo lets you quickly build a fundraising Web site (is that fun or is it easy or both?), hump the site on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Apparently anyone can use the site for fundraising. Maybe I should see if I could raise some loot to do more with my 1000faces project or my new Baby Biography video series or my Finger Dancing Documentary? I have a million ideas but I don’t have millions of bucks. Perhaps GoodTwo is the answer to my prayers!

The site can also be used by businesses to promote themselves as part of a fundraising effort. That seems like a solid idea as well. There are a lot of companies offering new ways to raise money though so I’ll be interested to see and hear how GoodTwo is different and better.

CraveLabs – there’s a lot of interest in local – whether it’s local news, local deals, local businesses, etc. CraveLab seems to be focused on helping local organizations use social and mobile marketing tools more effectively. That’s a start. The company’s product is the CraveUp Restaurant Marketing Platform (thankfully they don’t seem to be insisting on referring to it as an RMP). It actually seems pretty nifty. QR codes at the restaurant or in ads take you to a mobile app with details on the business and the ability to like it on Facebook. They also create a tab on Facebook with details on the menu, events, etc. and tools for managing the platform from a mobile device. All of it sounds great.

Like a good doobie I scanned the QR code and was whisked (well, not exactly whisked) to a mobile page. Loading was s-l-o-w and it took a lot of clicks (and more slowding) to get details. I also checked out the Facebook page/tab they’d created. It looked good – but was also fairly slow to load. (It was slow enough that I almost clicked away thinking it wasn’t working.) One piece of advice – get someone (friends, relatives, whomever) to comment on the posts so that the example looks like it’s driving engagement for the client. I’ll swing by to check out their story in person.

SynchTube – synchtube synchronizes the web – I don’t know about you but I’ve been on IM with friends and sending YouTube links back and forth. It’s fun to share content that way. SynchTube tries to improve this by letting you create a “room” where the content you want to share (from a pretty broad range of sites) can be stored, queued, shared with, commented on and commented on by you and your chums. Sounds reasonable – but is it necessary?

I created an account and a room. When I went to log in again I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the room I’d made. I kinda wanted to be able to create a queue and share it with friends when I was ready but I don’t know if that’s possible. (It does look like I can save a playlist though.)

There are lots of things I do like about SynchTube. I like the idea of sharing content with friends (which I can already do) and making snide asides to each other (which I can already do as well). I like the number of content sources I can pull from but I wish there were more – Spotify, Last.fm, Flickr, etc. would also be nice. The Webcam piece is cool too – but it looks like both parties need to toggle it on to see (or be seen).

The interface seemed pretty clunky and unintuitive for my taste but the concept isn’t bad. I think it would make more sense if I had more than one friend ☹

Addie – A new approach to real-life sharing and cloud storage – when it comes to tag lines I’m in the less-is-more camp. This one seems kind of more-is-more. That said, I love the idea. I often want to share content with friends or clients. I use Dropbox, YouSendIt and FTP sites to get the job done.

Addie has some neat features going for it – first, I can put together a list of contacts and can organize them by things like friends, family, colleagues. Then I can share with groups or individuals. That’s cool. It would be cooler if I could import contacts from Facebook or Twitter rather than having to add each contact individually. I also like the fact that I can see when a piece of content has been viewed and see comments from the viewer (but only if they are an Addie member). The 50MB limit is a bit of a drag – especially for video. The UI is also pretty painful – there’s lots of clicking around to get anything done. I’m going to assume that’s something that will be ironed out over time and with more customer feedback.

All in all it’s a neat little service that I’ll use if I remember to.

Curisma – Discover Cool Stuff – The site is currently invite-only so I can’t tell you much. I will say that I discover cool stuff through Twitter and Facebook every day so these guys (and the community) and going to have to show me REALLY cool stuff to get me to pay attention.

Reptivity – Real-time Leaderboard for your Sales Team – Call me a dope if you must but I am neither a sales person (see above) nor do I use Salesforce.com Professional or Enterprise editions. That makes it pretty much impossible for me to say anything about Reptivity.

Thankfully, I do have eyes so I was able to watch a video on the service. Unfortunately I also have ears and was forced to listen to a very LOUD and poorly recorded voiceover. According to the audio assault Reptivity is a “fun” way to motivate your competitive sales force. Right. More like an easy way to smoke out underperformers. I kid, I kid! (But not that much.)

Well that’s the lineup for tomorrow’s WebInno. I’ll be updating it on Wednesday with photos and impressions based on reality. Until then, let me know if you have any thoughts or observations on any of these companies – and I hope to see you tomorrow!