The sixth edition of Startup Camp Montreal is set for May 6th. The event features five startup pitches. The selected startups pay nothing to present, and also get a free coaching session where they get feedback and suggested improvements on their pitch. Quality in the past has been excellent with startups from Montreal, Toronto, New York and beyond applying.
As i write this, the tradeshow floor here at Blogworld has been open for a little over an hour. I’ve made the rounds of the various booths and come up with my best picks:
Most innovative: Zemanta
Zemanta is a very cool tool for blog authors. As you’re writing a blog post, it analyzes the context to automatically suggest relevant images (creative commons-licensed), tags, external links and even related blog posts, all of which can be included in your post at the click of a mouse.
Zumata has the potential to help bloggers save time, write better and more interesting posts, and gain traffic. They are not monetizing it at the moment, but I can easily see them selling sponsored content recommendations tailored to the content of a blog post.
Most promising: Crowd Science
Crowd Science is a hosted audience measurement service. If you have a web site you want to sell ads on, you’ll want to provide your advertisers with demographic and psychographic information on your visitors. Most audience measurement services rely on observing the behaviors of a panel of web surfers, but many sites do not have enough traffic volume for such a panel to be effective.
Crowd Science’s approach is to host inline surveys embedded within the web site being measured. The surveys all contain a base set of common demographic questions, which site owners can enhance with questions specific to their vertical. The surveys are only delivered to a sample of overall traffic, and once enough data has come in, site owners can use it to create a media kit with data validated by a third party.
Most interactive: Toss up between b5media and Southwest Airlines
There’s a poker game going on at the b5media booth. You get get free chips by wearing b5media schwag, yelling out “I love b5media,” or the like. When in Rome do as the Romans do. And when in Vegas, well… here’s a crappy cell-phone photo of that poker game:
It’s great to see a big company that gets social media, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Southwest Airlines falls into this category. Southwest is holding a “blogospondent” where participants film and post videos about Southwest. They flew the top three contestants to Vegas for Blogworld, and they now have until tomorrow to produce a video. Oh, and they handed out roasted peanuts in the a
Are you at Blogworld and do you agree or disagree with this list? What are your favorite picks from Blogworld? Leave a comment below.
January’s a busy month for Montreal techno-geeks. Here are some of the events going on:
- January 8: Montreal Tech Entrepreneur Breakfast
- January 8: MySQL Montreal meetup by Morgan Tocker of MySQL (7pm at our offices)
- January 9: Yulblog, a casual get-together of Montreal bloggers (
6pm8pm at La Quincaillerie on Mont-Royal)
- January 15: Montreal On Rails
- January 23: StartupCamp Montreal
- January 28-30: Demo ’08. Okay, this is not actually happening in Montreal, but Montreal startup StandoutJobs will be launching there.
Speaking of web building, here’s a video about just that subject:
Red Herring’s inaugural Canadian event, Innovation Illuminated, took place September 5-7th in Montreal. The event took place against the backdrop of persistent rumours of financial problems at Red Herring.
Some key trends based on observations from the conference:
- China rising (and India, too): These are big markets and only going to get bigger. The US market is no longer the sole destination for tech firms from Canada and elsewhere.
- The emergence of Israel as an innovation hub: The level of technology innovation coming out of Israel is by any measure way disproportionate to their population size. Israeli venture capitalist Orna Berry shared some interesting insight, arguing that while the stereotype of Israel excelling in the security area (witness CheckPoint Software), they also do well in other technology sectors due to their having practically no natural resources.
- Cleantech: Lots of presentations, but these company founders clearly have little experience pitching investors. Please don’t make me sit through 10 minutes and 15 slides talking about how your energy conservation system is manufactured before showing the slide on how you tested it in a real office building and reduced their power consumption by 2/3. This sector is still dependant on the regulatory environment and I don’t see it really taking off until a cap and trade market is finally instituted – which will happen eventually. Still, until governments wake up and do it, investors will be placing their chips and making some early bets in this sector.
Feedback on the conference organization itself:
- The good
- Company presentations: You don’t go to conferences for the boring talks, do you? My personal favourites were Mobivox and EQO, both mobile plays
- Red Herring CEO Alex Vieux’s ego: He’s not shy to ask direct questions and push his presenters. From “When will you reach $100M?” to “Will Israel ever make peace with the Palestinians?” nothing is taboo.
- Disappearing speakers: You could not find a better disappearing act even if it were put on by the Cirque du Soleil. Gérard Lopez (of Mangrove Partners) was scheduled to give a “fireside chat.” Alas, there was no fire, and no chat. Salman Ullah (Director of Corporate Development at Google) was quietly dropped from the program and Sean Wise (From Dragon’s Den show on CBC) didn’t show because he had a paid gig elsewhere. Worse yet, some speakers such as Louise Guay (MyVirtualModel) and half of the four VC’s on the “Meet the money” panel just didn’t show when it was time for their talk or panel, with no explanation.
- The price tag: Definitely not worth the $2500 ticket.
- Alex Vieux’s ego: He hogged the stage, moderating most of the panels and boring the audience with his endless mentions of how he’s been “good buddies” for decades with Bill Gates, Tim Draper, John Doerr, etc etc, etc. He could have made things a lot more interesting and engaging by at least taking questions from the audience. Instead, conference goers deserted the main track presentations in droves, opting instead to network amoungst each other in the hallways.
Read more blog coverage on the event from Mat Balez (here, here, and here), Roberto Rocha (here, here and here) and Alec Saunders. (By the way, Alec has a cool new Facebook conference call application.)
Oh, and I presented the first public preview of SmartHippo.com, which is currently in closed beta. SmartHippo is a consumer-powered marketplace for financial services. Here’s the video I opened with:
[For those of you who don’t know, DemoCamp is an informal gathering of people who have interesting technology or products to showcase and which have not yet reached the mainstream. Of course some of them never will, but part of the fun is getting to see things that are still “raw” before they either make it or sink into oblivion.
Kudos go to Austin Hill for helping organize this event and for the significant increase in the quality of the presentations this event (not to mention for throwing a cool party, which he’s always excelled at).]
By far the most impressive presentation of the night was BumpTop from UofT Master’s student Anand Agarawala. BumpTop is a user interface which renders your PC’s workspace as 3-D desktop where you can push, throw, flip, pile and even crumple documents, just as you would in the physical world. Here’s a demo.
Different people have different ways of organizing their workspace. Some people a virtually naked desk with everything neatly labelled and stored away in alphabetically sorted folders. I, on the other hand, have a somewhat more cluttered desk and work area (at times refered to by epithets such as messy or disorganized). There’s no right or wrong organizational system, just different ones for different people.
A BumpTop desktop would let me organize my computer the way I think and work, rather than the other way around. Judging from the reaction from the audience – which burst into spontaneous applause at several points in the presentation – I’m not alone.
MARY: Thank you for calling Enterprise, the company that picks you up.
ME: Hi Mary. Can you pick me up? I’m at the DoubleTree.
MARY: Ummm, we don’t have anyone available to do that right now.
ME: But you said you could pick me up when you answered the phone.
MARY: Ummm, yeah. We ummm, hold on one moment, sir.
HOLD MESSAGE: (Music) Thank you for your patience. A representative will be with you shortly. (Music) At Enterprise, we pick you up.
The CJU 2006 conference was winding down, and I decided to take advatage of a lunchtime lull before the final CJ Performer event to organize for a rental car to drive us back to LAX. You’d think that at a minimum, the person on the other end of the line would have adapted her greeting to the situation. There’s no easier way to lose (captive) customers than to fail to meet expectations you yourself have set.
While the above real-world example may be the extreme, the web is full of marketing campaigns where everything from the ad copy and creative, to landing pages, to the checkout process have been carefully thought out — but where time-sensitive variables are thrown out the window. Does your site sell a product or service whose quantity is limited? Do you use the pay per click engines’ API’s to pause your campaigns when you run out of the product, or are you spending money to acquire disatisfied customers?
As for the car rental, the Hertz counter in the conference hotel lobby took care of us.