Startup Riot 2012 was a week ago – I once again got to hear many startups pitch in a day, meet with them down at their tables, and meet a lot of people (and old friends) who are doing some cool stuff or work in the same industry as I do.
The Judging Panel this year added a fun new dynamic – especially with Robert Cringely and Noah Kagan willing to speak their minds and doing so in a somewhat edgy manner. If Cringely hadn’t have been as abrasive as he was, I don’t think it would have worked out as well. Michelle Zatlyn added something to the conversation. Atlanta’s own, Jesse Maddox, however, didn’t seem to match the dynamic of the group and needed to push more questions so that we could actually learn from the groups.
Lunch was a bit strange with the food trucks versus Ted’s and a food court – one of these is not like the other – and definitely not as quick – the others are not as good for natural networking. My lunch group was a great combination or technology users, developers, ATDC organizers, and entrepreneurs with some interesting stories.
The Judged Top 3
ViaCycle was the winning startup – and I knew that they should be from two nights before, when I was running through the Georgia Tech campus and saw these bikes with little LEDs on them. I’d actually wanted to do this in the states after visiting Austria in 2006 with ItsMEdia where I had rented bicycles to get around Vienna seamlessly and in a way that was great to explore the city – and they improved it in some ways by having it be baseless (no special bike rack needed.) I initially asked many of the problems that I had seen when I looked to bring it to Atlanta Midtown, Atlanta – liability / insurance, working with helmet laws, and safe routes. While they had good answers for the first two, they only had limited availability for the 3rd – focusing on college campuses – and I imagine cities with good bike paths like Portland or Hilton Head. I dream of a day where Piedmont Park is a walk to Park, where people can get off of the train at Midtown station and bike the 3/4 mile to the 12th street entrance (and actually inquired about commercial setups at Midtown Station at one point) – so, yes, I voted for them. It’s Socially Responsible, but not likely to grow amazingly fast as it’s inventory based.
SalesLoft took second place; I’ve seen the report on my company for another person’s company before and it provided very useful insights. Kyle presented very well, but as I experienced during lunch, didn’t answer some huge questions about what they actually do (esp Web Scraper Technology and example social / website reports) instead focusing more on its SalesForce.com partnerships and availability, appealing to a single authority (a la ‘Sig Loves It, so you should too’ from WiFi Cat). The effect of arranging a Cloudflare sales call on stage suggests that small technology companies could really use this kind of software.
Driver.ly was a peculiar choice for the top 5 in my mind, but I’m biased by my perceptions of the used car market (I’ve only bought 4 before, Craigslist + Ebay.) My perception is that few car owners have the inelastic ability to sell their car when they want – the decision is typically based more on a buying decision – and I perceive most high value used cars sales as trade-ins, even to CarMax or other used car dealers that end up taking any cars that would be worth enough of a researched value – to auctions. Besides, in my dealer experiences, resale value is a top sales point, and they already tell you approximate resale value at points when you buy a car (and have these tables available if you ask the right way.) In the end, maybe it’s a feature looking for an acquisition.
My Other Favorites
The Bad.gy presentation with the case study on Quilted Northern Toilet Paper sold me – I find it entertaining what people are willing to do for badges and flair on Facebook. Proven business marketing solution.
In the marketing space, I really like Call Rail. The judges asked the legitimate question: is a small muffler shop going to be able to be sold on campaign analytics – is the Dollar General – is a restaurant that takes reservations? But I think that their application could easily expand to much larger campaigns, by more regional or national companies too.
Online and social coupon-ing seemed like a popular ship or revenue strategy for a lot of these companies – the idea that some of these have merchants testing already shows that I don’t know the market. I see issues with Baristas scanning QR codes. I think it’s a misunderstanding to think that restaurants want people to actually cash in on Loyalty Cards – especially more quickly, as opposed to it being a sales tool to the wishful customer. Oh, and foursquare pretty much solved the loyalty tracking problem.
A few companies also tried to solve the problems with friends or regular service providers – taking actual, more than acquaintance relationships to the app. They’re my close friends, so we like having meaningless conversation on chat, text, or the phone – it’s not an inconvenience if we dither between a restaurant or a movie for a few minutes in each others’ company. My bar tender knows my name already, she knows what I want to drink – because I thank by tipping and being nice, she sees that twinkle in my eye, and I’m likely to review her positively on a service like foursquare already.
Tunefruit for licensing audio. I think this mostly went over people’s heads. but if it provides what they say it does and it can market to videographers, it has a lot of potential.
RentPost, CubeVibe and Passport Parking solve some inefficiencies, but I’m not sure how well.
YouEye for user testing presented a useful QA and UX testing portal
Taking your shirt off is kind of like using a prop, but Body Boss seemed to do alright with it. They are either validated or behind based on my poker group talking about the Men’s Health Workout app the night before. But their demo app could use some work, I didn’t want to leave the app to go register on their site.