Five Companies to Watch from Launch Silicon Valley 2011

Launch Silicon Valley event 2011

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.

LT. Governor Gavin Newsom by Joel Henner

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 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

Schipul attends SugarCon 2011

Last week SugarCon 2011 was held in San Francisco, and Schipul was out in full force! SugarCRM is the customer relationship management system that Schipul uses to track all of our client activity. If you’ve ever talked with us or have a site with us right now, we’ve got you “in the system” where we can keep tabs on all the projects going on and make sure you’re getting the client love! SugarCon is a great way for us to interact with others using the system and learn about the cool things they’ve done, as well as learn about new enhancements for the system and hear from technology partners. It also gave the crew some time to hang out with me!

I asked everyone for their thoughts on what was their favorite part of the conference, and two common threads emerged – one, we all loved hearing from HubSpot’s Brian Halligan and Capgemini’s Laurence Buchanan on “Marketing in the Age of Social“. It may be the only time that Comic Sans actually worked for a slide presentation. Additionally, it was exciting to see how different users and companies are customizing the software and expanding the functionality. Here at Schipul, we’ve worked with our SugarCRM provider Epicom to create some custom reports and functionality, like our client portal – but we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of all that is possible. One of the great things about SugarCRM is that as an open-source solution it can be extremely powerful as folks create new mods and plugins, versus trying to bend a rigid system to do what they want. A lot of “a-ha” moments were reported by the group. As geeks we are totally fascinated by tech and code!

Michael from Epicom meets John-Michael from Schipul

We were also treated to a special private performance of Beach Blanket Babylon, which is the longest running musical revue in history! Pretty cool to get an intimate  performance  by the cast, and even more cool was the custom songs they created for the Sugar crowd! The cast came out as everyone from Snow White to Elvis  Presley, and had the vocals to match. We sat up front to be close to the action and took as many photos as we could until Aaron’s cell phone died. (Then we moved on to mine)

Finale performance

All in all it was an educational and fun week for the group, and was a nice visit with the folks back home for me. Y’all come back soon now, ya hear?

NTEN 2011 Knowledge Share: Using Video to Raise Funds

This year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) was one for the record books. CiviCRM was a buzz, making open-source software the hero for a multitude of constituent management woes. Speaking of CRMs, have you ever heard of a SocialCRM, yep…it’s coming people! And of course there was Google, never one to show up empty handed, launching “Google for Nonprofits” with the most adorable chocolate bars in tow. There were so many new, and often misspelled, online fund-raising technologies being discussed that many might have walked away a tad overwhelmed.

So what’s an organization to do? What is the best way to raise money online?

One word – VIDEO. And let me tell you why…

While meandering around NTC, a session caught my eye called, “Videos that Raise Money” (See3 Communications). I like videos, and I like helping our nonprofit clients raise money so I figured this would be a win/win situation. Then BAM…statistics were thrown right in my face:

“In December 2010 ComScore reported that 85% of US internet users watched online video, 88.6 million people watched online video on an average single day and the average American spent more than 14 hours watching online video (ComScore, February 2011)”

Geez, whatever happened to playing outside, but I digress…

This data cannot be ignored, and with all of the inexpensive ways to produce videos, nonprofits need to utilize this growing audience to increase awareness and of course, increase online donations.

Ok, so where should an organization begin? According to the guys over at See3, fund-raising has a life cycle and video becomes increasingly relevant during each stage.

Video Fund-raising Life Cycle

Awareness & Identification

Get people to think about the problem and how your organization is dealing with it; and remember, simplicity can force someone to listen.

“It’s in Your Hands”


Go ahead and just ask; allow your donors to create social capital.

“Seriously, Serious PSA”



Just say thank you.“The Boy Who Lived”



Show your donors where their money went and how much it has helped your organization.“Prayer Answered in the Form of a Dairy Cow”



Let your donors know the bigger impact.“Stand With Haiti”



Check out the entire presentation on See3’s slideshare!

Steve Ballmer Speaks at Houston Technology Center Forum

Houston Technology Center

HTC welcomes the CEO of Microsoft!

A gorgeous day downtown, the great folks at Houston Technology Center and guest Steve Ballmer – CEO of Microsoft drew dozens and dozens to Minute Maid Park’s Union Station for today’s Houston Technology Forum.

The Houston Technology Center is known for affording education, insight and more to entrepreneurs needing to climb the ropes to commercialization.   The topic of the day, presented by Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, was “Strategic Implications for Houston as a Center for Innovation.”

“The most grand commodity of all is information” – Steve Ballmer


Steve Ballmer Microsoft Houston Technology Center

High Tech Talk

Highlights included the path that technology has taken in the last decade and where it’s going in the next.   Hand-held devices, resources technology and virtual worlds where business takes place with Avatars were all topics of discussion.   The forum mainly, however,   focused on informations technology and the important and continuing role it will play on business development in the years to come.

Steve Ballmer also spiced things up wit ha sneak peak of some great Avatar based progra ms for X-Box360 even giving away an X-Box to a lucky attendee at the end of the program.

Houston Technology Center Microsoft

Hugs to Houston Technology Center

Sheila Whanger did a great job organizing the event and it was wonderful to see Walter Ulrich, President & CEO of Houston Technology Center up on the stage as well.   Let’s not also forget the welcoming faces of   Downey Bridgwater, Chairman of the Board – HTC and Larry Kellner, Chairman of the Board – Greater Houston Partnership.

It was great, everyone.   Thanks so much to HTC!

Houston Technology Center Walter Ulrich 2