Disruption at Disrupt? Not Quite, but Here’s a Few Gems

Disrupt Left Image: Startup Alley features 200 emerging startups, I talked to as many as I could.

In my quest for ABR (always be researching), the Three Web Strategy Spheres, I had a day to focus in on the technology sphere (the bleeding edge of it) to connect with a handful of the 200 emerging garage startups at Techcrunch Disrupt yesterday.

Trends: Emerging Startups Show Innovation –Despite Most Will Fail:
It’s been fun attending the Techcrunch events emerge from Michael’s backyard in 2006 to the now international events where thousands descend, here’s the high level trends:

  • The air smelled like “opportunity”. with many entrepreneurs filled with passion bring forth their projects, some who travelled from around the world (there was even an Israeli row) to share their work. It smelled like geek. What’s that? A bit of bad breath, body odor, within this male dominated scene.
  • There was marketing everywhere, even in the urinal. From street teams, phamplets handouts, ninjas, and other circus acts, the one that stood out was how one startup Fee Fighters put branded screen urinals with their logo and saying something like “you’re pissing away money”.
  • Focus on products –not booth babes. Unlike a recent enterprise IT conference I went to, there were few scantily clad models at booths, the focus was on the products –not eye candy.  This was refreshing.
  • PR Opportunity: Their positioning from startups needs lots of help. I strolled down the aisle with one VC friend of the 200 startups, we noticed they had ridiculous company names missing vowels and cutesy logos. The biggest set back, is the lack of positioning or even tag lines. A majority of the banners lacked a descriptor of what the company did. This is a big opportunity for PR firms to assist this early market.
  • Lots of companies doing the same thing. I saw many startups that did the same thing, with just a slight variation on which data element they will push on.  I asserted that strategic marketing and early influencer adoption will be key to push them over the edge. However colleague Christine Tran correctly suggested that several sites have gotten early influencers on them such as Quora, EmpireAve and Google+ and have not received mainstream attention.
  • Bubble? Not this part of the market. It’s not a bubble (over-inflation despite lack of revenues) as entry costs are so low.  The NYT asserts that Disrupt felt like a bubble, but as someone who worked at Exodus in 2000 I don’t think so, why?  Startup costs for these emerging startups are so low, with many just needing 50k seed fund they can get up and running.  However, if we’re discussing valuation for the established startups, that’s a different story.
  • Most will fail. Overall, many of these will never make it, and few would be considered by enterprise class buyers due to volatility and lack of service, support and security.

Startup Gems: What Caught My Eye
Despite that I’d guess less than 5% of the 200 startups will make it, here’s a few that caught my attention:

Over Saturation of SoLoMo Startups
Feature sets are a mobile application sorting data based on proximity data and immediate social graph:

  • Sonar.me finds who’s near you and prioritizes by your social graph, (people you know) and recommends what to do. (pic)
  • Holler is social network for local events by @allnick who recently sold his Facebook blogs. This startups focus on finding spontaneous events from friends, which I imagine could work in an urban setting. (pic)
  • Similarly I met Doweet (pronounced “Do it”, see what I’m saying about company names?) which was founded by at 15 year old Israeli, Unlike plancast, which is public data Doweet is prioritizing mainly by your primary social graph (pic)
  • Lastly, I also met Smolk Signal (again with the misspelled names) which has more public data offers a similar feature yet is situation on Google maps as an overlay to find hot spots of popular local events.

Startups for Bigger Business Rare But Unique
It’s important we look at both B2C and B2B technology and here’s a few that are for businesses to use, with a focus on enterprise class (companies with more than 1000 employees)

  • Datasift, also more established, aggregates social data then provides a toolkit for data modeling, and output. think Pipes with far more features for modeling and output.  (pic)
  • Mancx offers a unique feature that enables sales teams to post public questions (likely anom) where they can put a bounty on an answer and crowd source answers. Common questions could be around competitive data, suppliers, contacts. (pic)
  • From a media vertical perspective, Thinglink enables images to be interactive (think JavaScript imagemaps). I think of this as more of a feature that should be part of Buddy/Involver/ContextOptional/Wildfire suite. (pic)
  • Established vendor Badgeville (i’ve done a webinar with them) was a winner from the previous Disrupt, and continues to integrate gamification features with enterprise class clients.

Assorted Sundries Keep it Interesting
Here’s a few interesting things I saw, or got tours of to watch

  • Former Digg founder Kevin Rose discuss his upcoming startup Oink which will provide ratings and reviews for all consumer products, then sort by location priority likely with contextual marketing. Oink is one of the companies to come out of his development garage called Milk. I joke that Beef and Leather will be the next product set.
  • Had a tour of the 500 Startups (incubator) alley run by VC @davemcclure who posed for me while he’s lying down on the job.  Recently, I had a private tour with the startups in his portfolio at their Mountain View office with Loic Lemeur.
  • For grins, perhaps the most amusing company is Talk O’Clock a funny services where you sign up using FB connect and instead of an alarm clock a stranger calls you in am to wake you up. (pic)
  • For celeb appeal, tech friendly Ashton Kutcher and Chamillionaire were there.

Hope that gives some perspective of those that couldn’t attend, my day at Techcrunch Disrupt.

19 Replies to “Disruption at Disrupt? Not Quite, but Here’s a Few Gems”

  1. great show summary J!

    (btw it’s 500 STARTUPS not 500 HATS these days)

    agree it’s been a long strange trip from mike’s old campfire BBQ TechCrunch parties to the thronging thousands now @ Disrupt.

  2. I can’t believe you missed CakeHealth, a startup I mentor at the RockHealth incubator. CakeHealth lets people aggregate and keep track of their health care expenses. That’s the first step toward taking the responsibility for controlling costs. The entrepreneur is a woman, and brilliant. Eventually, it will make it to the Enterprise, and companies will give it to their employees.

  3. Thanks for the mention Jeremiah.  What factor do you think will determine the winner of the SoLoMo/proximity social networking space?


  4. I do feel like Techcrunch and the conferences are starting to get a little commercial. I think it’s about $1500 to present at a tiny bar table in start up alley and nobody really goes to those to be hinest apart from other start ups and the odd blogger like ourselves. You are never going to see the hard core investors down there as they are mostly out the back of the stage talking with the big players. It seems to have moved away from being about start ups to more of a focus on big socilal media companies and that is shame 

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