Five Startups Take Flight At Web 2.0 Launchpad

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I’m at today’s Web2.0 LaunchPad, where five startups have been selected to present pitches in the keynote room of the Moscone Center. At this point the name ‘LaunchPad’ is a bit of a misnomer – companies don’t actually have to launch here to get accepted. Rather, it’s more of a place for companies to showthemselves in the public eye, in front of a crowd of VCs, members of the press, and a panel of judges. This year’s judges include VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall, Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, and Anand Iyer of Microsoft BizSpark. Federated Media’s John Battelle is acting as the MC.

Summaries and selected questions from the panelists are below for each company. After the presentations, a real-time audience poll awarded PhoneGap with the top prize.

80legs is a service that allows developers to crawl the web quickly, at a relatively low price. Spidering the web has historically been a time consuming and expensive process, which makes it impractical for small to mid-sized startups. 80legs says it will allow developers to crawl up to 2 billion pages a day, with costs running $2 per million pages crawled and $0.03 per CPU-hr used for analysis. 1 Trillion pages on the Internet right now, typically you have to invest in big datacenter. Need to spend millions of dollars normally.
Q: What’s the secret sauce (Judges are concerned that other companies could replicate something similar, trying to brute force it.)
A:Our sister company has a grid computing system. They integrate with desktop apps, use excess bandwidth, idle power. That’s the hardware part of it. We’ve solved many of the problems associated with web crawling, and passing and storing data efficiently.

zeaLOG allows users to visualize the things they’re keeping track of in their lives. Hacking is a Web 2.0 term for self-improvement, doing just a little bit more to improve. Allows users to visualize many metrics, such as saving weight. Users can share their progress with friends, so that they can help motivate each other. The visualizations are impressive, with colorful dynamic graphs. Can track number of pushups you’ve done, Twitter followers you have, Word Twist IQ, etc. Extremely open, allow you to embed graphs into blogs. Opening API to feed any kind of data in. Opening to third parties.
Kirkpatrick: I was excited at first, but felt deflated pretty quickly. There are a bunch of apps for passive tracking.. There’s effort required on this site.
A: Users are coming up with many ideas for things they’re looking to track…
Iyer; I’m a heavy user of Mint, the lead gen model works for them. Have you thought about integrated lead gen?
A: We’ve thought about investigating it. Because of privacy issues, there’s a fine line.. We’re small and lean our costs are lower for right now. Figuring out what users like.
Marshall: A lot of Web 2.0 companies are surprised at how hard it is to get people to come back. What are things you can do to get people to come back? I think think a lot of these activities last for 6 months..
A: We’ve had people look at more ongoing things (movies they’ve watched). What seems to happen is natural virality, people will show it to coworkers, spouse. People seem to come in groups.

PhoneGap is a ‘cross platform for mobile applications’. There’s lots of hype around the iPhone, but there are other devices: Nokia, BlackBerry, Palm, Android, Windows Mobile. We need to write in all of these different languages. PhoneGap, you write in HTML+JavaScript, works on all of them. It’s open sourced, has native API access. Community is growing quickly. Today they released an emulator that allows developers to jump between different interfaces so they can see what their application will look like in each phone on the fly. PhoneGap is funded by Nitobi, which has been around for ten years.

Kirkpatrick: I like it. I was wondering if you could speak to what people were saying when the Pre came out, about not being able to create heavy-duty apps.
A: I think we’ve seen that you can. It would be difficult to do 3D games, but for social network, etc HTML and JavaScript are more than you need.
Marshall: Any other companies doing this?
A: Yes, there are a few doing the multiplatform approach, not aware of any that are doing HTML/JavaScript model.

Bantam is an online social workspace for business coworkers. Allows users to post notes to an activity feed, which can include status updates and action updates (e.g. when a file is uploaded into the system). In some ways seems similar to Yammer, though Bantam includes more options like Events and a more feature-rich control panel. Small-mid sized businesses.
Kirkpatrick: I wonder why I would want to use a proprietary technology to microblog
A: Bantam isn’t going to be for everyone, but I don’t know of an alternative that does what Bantam does. I don’t know of any open source alternatives that let you do this.
Marshall: Group of writers looking communicate, we haven’t found a perfect solution. This is the sort of thing that’s really valuable – a workflow combines with real-time updates. My concern is that everyone knows this, I think SocialText released something very similar.
A: Competition is a beautiful thing.
Iyer: What kind of feedback are you getting about security concerns?
A: Outages are always the first issue. It hasn’t been an issue thus far.

Many of us get overloaded with business cards. And even if you get it into your system, you’ll forget who they are months later, and their contact info may change. dubmenow is looking to solve the business card exchange problem. Works on any phone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile), anything with SMS. Small application. Captures date, time, and location. Can save to the cloud, and to your mobile phone. LinkedIn invites, Address book backup, CRM integration.
Iyer: Can you talk about differentiation a bit? There are other similar products out there.
A: This isn’t a new idea. Palm tried it ten years ago. The challenge it was platform dependent (had to be on Palm). And even then it wouldn’t remain up to date.
Kirkpatrick: When so many people have identities on the web now (you can Google them), why do I need to store contact information locally?
A: Once you make exchange easier, how do you manage it…

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