Yesterday was the annual Launch Silicon Valley event, hosted by the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs. The event took place in Mountain View at the Microsoft campus, and had several big names in tech and startups speaking. At Schipul, we love building websites for entrepreneurs – we are one! – and we get totally geeky and excited about new technologies; so this was a must-attend for us. I took one for the team and made the trip to Mountain View (about five miles from our Sunnyvale office) and braved the 65 degree and sunny weather to check it out. Before you hate on me too much, please note that at one point there was no coffee available. NO. COFFEE.
In the morning, the agenda focused largely on panel discussions on the future of venture capital and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, as well as the rest of the world. You’ve likely heard it suggested that we’re currently in another “tech bubble”; based off of the recent LinkedIn IPO and a coming IPO from Groupon. While most everyone agreed that yes, we are seeing a bubble again, they felt that things would be different this time since the overall world economy is still struggling. That factor would keep the stock market in check; since no matter how excited you may have personally been to hear about these IPOs it’s highly unlikely that the average American is in a position to wager a big bet on them. For that matter, few companies would be able to either. There’s not a huge worry about throwing the breaks on this bubble, and the overall hope is that entrepreneurs who get large valuations will cash out quick and then reinvest back into the venture capital arena.
The economic talk continued with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom appearing at the conference to chat about development in Silicon Valley and California as a whole. Newsom mentioned that he had recently been visiting several states to see how the others work with their businesses, and mentioned Texas as one of those stops. Newsom stated that in California, 33% of residents have been unemployed for over a year. 33%. It’s a mindboggling figure, and one that many of us in Silicon Valley are isolated from, as unemployment numbers have actually been decreasing in this area. It speaks to the importance of entrepreneurship and strong technical education; as those new startups who develop new technologies need folks to hire. Newsom’s talk is available on YouTube; I highly recommend you checking it out. He’s a great speaker and I’m excited to see what’s in store with him as Lt. Governor.
But on to the good stuff. The afternoon was full of startup pitches; companies who had been around for a year or more and those that just started last month – all presenting on their product, idea, technology. Presentations were limited to 6 minutes and then a panel was allowed to ask questions. Viewers in the audience then voted on the idea they think has the best chance of making it. You can view a full list of the companies who presented at the SVASE website (bottom of the page). Here’s five companies that I think you should keep an eye on:
1. Steelhouse – Steelhouse combines two things a Schipulite loves – web analytics and eCommerce solutions. Steelhouse enables a eCommerce company to get real data on their customers and then better target their promotions to them. As a company, you’ve got to love the idea of being able to really drill-down on the activity going on in your shopping cart. Who’s buying? What time? What made them click? Where did they travel to on the site? How long were they there? Do they come back late at night? How many people looked at this campaign in the last 30 days? How about the last 30 seconds? Think of it like Google Analytics on steroids. Better yet, check out the site! The President of Steelhouse is Mark Douglas, who used to work for a little website called eHarmony.com. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s okay if you don’t want to tell us how.
2. Take The Interview – The former Operations Manager in me loved this one. Take The Interview is a cloud-based platform that enables employers to better screen job applicants. It’s hard to tell what someone is really like from just a resume. It’s hard for a jobseeker to stand out from all the other resumes, unless you use Comic Sans 16-point font in hot pink. [Please don’t ever do that.] Wouldn’t it be great if you could have applicants submit a little video of themselves answering some of your core interview questions? Wouldn’t you as an applicant love the chance to get your bright smile across right away? This platform makes it possible. I’m excited to see this one develop, and especially curious to see how some of our Tendenci job board users might be able to incorporate it in to their processes.
3. Innovalley – Did you ever see a video about a guy with a hoodie that had the controls for his iPod built right into the sleeve? Yea, that was these guys. They call it “smart apparel” and it can be anything from the aforementioned hoodie to a laptop bag that charges your laptop and sneakers with built-in GPS. I want it all.
4. Oomba – These guys? Well these guys are having some naming troubles, so the name was changed from Waba to Oomba literally the day before Launch 2011. The website doesn’t tell you much; but imagine a company that allowed you to trade those virtual objects you collect in games like FarmVille and World of Warcraft, or even auction them off to the highest bidder. Since you, of course, don’t play FarmVille you may not know much about these items (at least not that you’ll admit, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. On the Internet.)
In many games though, you can earn or capture rare items like a sword or talking cow. Maybe you earn two talking cows and decide it’s too much, because they’re arguing all the time. So you want to sell one, because it would be virtually mean to just let one go wander in a virtual field. eBay however banned you from doing that, so where do you go? Oomba is your place. The company is headed up by Michael Williams, a guy who has written many computer games himself and who gave the best presentation I saw. Also on board with him is Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. [No, really. And I was totally in the room with that guy.] And cause that wasn’t enough, they also brought on the guy who created Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon. I think it’s safe to say this is a team that knows a bit about gaming and collecting. I’m excited about this one.
5. Trutag Technologies – You know that medicine your doctor just prescribed for you? There’s a 10% chance that it is counterfeit. On the surface, 10% isn’t a lot, right? But we’re talking about something that you’re taking to get better, something that if you take the wrong thing, could do you real harm. Now 10% is a massively large number, isn’t it? Trutag looks to fix that with a edible bar code that will authenticate medicine at the dosage level. While they primarily focused on the medical applications at Launch 2011, they detail other possible uses on their website. While I think it’s kinda weird to think that your medicine has been tagged with something that can be read by a scanner but is edible; the technology behind it all is amazing.
Steelhouse, TruTags, and Innovalley were all voted as “Most Likely to Succeed”, along with Sylvatex Biofuels, Warranty Life, and Flyvie (which I know our own Katie Laird will be interested in). It was so interesting to hear from these entrepreneurs and get an idea of some of the technologies being developed today. Innovation is still alive and well! If you’re interested in learning more about the start up culture in Silicon Valley, check out the SVASE website. The group is a great resource for those looking for venture capital funding, and for tips on how to navigate the many challenges of a startup. Maybe we’ll see you at Launch 2012!
Featured image photo courtesy of our own Ed Schipul // Lt. Governor photo courtesy of photography Joel Henner from PR Newswire