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The InnoEco Awards from Tonight's TechStars Demo Night

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 10, 2009 09:40 PM

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The TechStars Boston Investor Evening tonight filled up the atrium of Microsoft's NERD Center in Kendall Square; Microsoft exec Reed Sturtevant told me that at about 280 people, it was the biggest crowd the place has seen thus far.

Nine companies presented short overviews of what they've built this summer, and most wrapped up with a request for funding.

Here's my totally subjective list of awards, along with some notes on who was there.

Best Position to Be In: Oneforty, which has already taken in funding from angel investors. They're planning a beta launch of the "app store for Twitter" on September 22nd, and founder Laura Fitton was generous enough to mention that she may re-open the funding round to other angel investors.

Most Likely to Be Acquired: Localytics, which helps developers of mobile apps understand how they're being downloaded, purchased, and used. When you call yourself "the Nielsen of mobile measurement," that's sure to get the attention of Nielsen (and their metrics-obsessed competitors).

Wittiest PowerPoint: Tempmine, an online marketplace for temp staffers founded by the Monaghan brothers. Under one of their photos, the caption: "Mom's second-favorite son."

Most Infomercial-esque: Ajay Kulkarni from Sensobi, a company making a "personal relationship management" app for the BlackBerry, was so emphatic he could've sold a thousand ShamWows. (My neighbor was downloading the app while the presentation was still going on.)

Best Identification of a "Pain Point": HaveMyShift, which lets workers at chains like Starbucks and Whole Foods trade off shifts (the co-founders have first-hand experience as baristas and ice cream scoopers).

Best Idea: My favorite of all the companies was LangoLab, which is using videos from sites like YouTube and Hulu to teach foreign languages. Look out, Berlitz!

Among the others: I liked AmpIdea's Internet-connected baby monitor (especially the idea that it'd automatically track sleep patterns), but the company is going to have challenges keeping the price down and bringing a consumer device to market; AccelGolf has some neat ideas about helping duffers improve their game; and Baydin had the chutzpah to make lots of cracks about the shortcomings of Microsoft SharePoint in Microsoft's house. If Baydin can actually solve the riddle of corporate knowledge management after decades of other companies trying and failing, well, I will be astounded.

All of the companies will have challenges building momentum and reaching the right customers without spending much on marketing. The word "freemium" was mentioned quite a few times, but that business model won't catapult everyone to phenomenal success.

The crowd was a really nice slice of Boston entrepreneurship, innovation, and media: angel investors Joe Caruso, Dan Weinreb, John Landry, and Jean Hammond; Google Ventures co-managing director Rich Miner; Harmonix Music Systems co-founder Eran Egozy, fresh from yesterday's launch of "The Beatles: Rock Band"; VCs Brad Feld of Foundry Group, Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, Lee Hower of Point Judith Capital, and Eric Hjerpe of Kepha Partners; Microsoft blogger Don Dodge; Jason Schupbach, the state's liaison to the IT industry; Olin College entrepreneur Evan Morikawa; former MIT Entrepreneurship Center director Ken Morse; Venrock partner and WebInno host David Beisel; Gabor Garai from Foley & Lardner; ex-Compete CEO Don McLagan; executive recruiter Clark Waterfall; Xconomy scribe Wade Roush; PEHub editor Dan Primack; Betahouse founder Jon Pierce; and Avid Technology founder Bill Warner, who helped bring TechStars to Boston in the first place.

Updates:

Don Dodge of Microsoft offers a much more thorough run-down of the companies that presented last night.

And Mass High Tech lists the amount of money each start-up is trying to raise, along with their plans to stay in Boston or move elsewhere.

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4 comments so far...
  1. Thanks for the write-up. Great take on the TechStars startups. I thought the companies did a phenomenal job with their presentations.

    Surprised I didn't run into you tonight (but it was a big group).

    Posted by Dharmesh Shah September 11, 09 02:46 AM
  1. Langolab, something new?
    Compare with Yabla.Com, serving language learners since '05 (incorporated in '01)
    e.g.
    http://lomastv.com
    http://french.yabla.com

    Posted by John September 11, 09 04:23 AM
  1. All of online is digital obsessed - mobile too (Localytics.) If Omniture can be a $300million web analytics company in Orem, UT, what's Localytics mobile analytics potential in Boston

    Posted by Don McLagan September 11, 09 06:29 AM
  1. I think that it is great that TechStars set up shop in Boston this Summer. This years crop of entrepreneurs are great and I think they got a lot out of the program. Boston is a hub of so much innovation and this is a great example. We also have a deep community of entrepreneurs as well. The TechStars mentor program reflects this in a big way. Great to see both combined in TechStars. Thanks for covering this Scott. Thanks to Brad Feld, David Cohen, Shawn Broderick, Bijan Sabet and the dean of Boston Entrepreneurs Bill Warner for their efforts to bring Tech Stars to Boston.

    Posted by Jeff Bennett September 11, 09 09:15 AM
 

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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