Nine Chicago Startups Present at Tech Cocktail

The first TECH cocktail event took place on July 6 in Chicago at STATE Restaurant and Café. The event featured Stormhoek South African wine and united over 225 Midwest participants — including venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, developers and tech enthusiasts. Nine Chicago-area companies presented. Pictures from the event are here.
, the freely browsable database of crimes reported in Chicago, is one of the original Google Maps mashup applications. It was created by developer Adrian Holovaty, a Chicago resident and lead developer of the Django framework. won the 2005 Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism and was named by the New York Times as one of 2005’s best ideas. While has not taken funding and is not a true company, we thought it was worth highlighting for trailblazing the road for other mashups to emulate.

Coastr, the online social guide to beer, was created with the goal of connecting passionate, like-minded people and new brews and beer drinking establishments. It was created by Brian Eng of Luckymonk and is a simple application built with Ruby on Rails. Coastr allows you to register to submit your favorite beers and beer drinking locations. You can also explore, rate and comment on your favorite beers. Additionally, Coastr offers a WordPress widget that can be added to a blog to share your favorite beers with blog visitors. :-)

ExtraTasty (TechCrunch profile here) fit nicely into the TECH cocktail theme and is a creation of skinnyCorp, which has a suite of online products including the T-Shirt design site Threadless, the independent music site 15 Megs of Fame and Naked and Angry. ExtraTasty is a user-generated drink recipe website featuring tagging, drink submission via the site and text message, in addition to a drink rating system and comments. An interesting feature is the interactive drink measurement scale, which allows you to click on a drink serving size and the scale calculates the appropriate amount of liquor to concoct the specific drink recipe.

, the West Loop-based feed management company, handles over 17 million subscriptions for over 200,000 publishers. FeedBurner has a host of interesting products including feed metrics packages for messaging feed readership. The TechCrunch feed is managed by FeedBurner, which has over 80,000 subscribers. FeedBurner has also has been positioning itself to be a targeted feed advertising option. Leveraging FeedFlare technology, FeedBurner has been able to insert advertisements under content items back on websites. Think of it as an ad network for feeds and sites, which makes FeedBurner an attractive acquisition target.

Gritwire is a creation of Dizpersion Technologies and was previously reviewed on TechCrunch. It offers a number of useful tools including MyGritwire, a flash-based feed aggregator with a built-in podcast and video player, as well as social networking features which allow you to add contacts, recommend and rate feed content. Gritwire recently launched a new feature called GritLists. Gritlists allow you to create an editorialized reading list. Other users can subscribe to your list through the Gritwire aggregator. Just in time for TECHcocktail, Gritwire released Gritlist Badges, which allow you to post your latest reading list on your own blog, website, MySpace or Friendster profile page.

is an online identity aggregator created by Tom Drugan and four others all formerly of Orbitz. Naymz allows you to aggregate links to all of your personal online content (blogs, photos, social networking profiles, news articles, resumes, etc.) onto one Naymz page. This personal aggregation, or personal Naymz page, will then be optimized for search engine findability for anyone looking to find you via search. The company has five employees and has taken an angel investment of $250,000. Sometimes it is easier to just say just “Google me” rather than dropping a phone number or email address and that is where products like Naymz could come in handy — especially as more people create online identities via blogs, photos or online videos.

RipIt Digital, a music conversion service founded by Greg Frost, converts CDs, cassettes and LPs into digital formats and loads the music onto your iPod, MP3 player or media server. RipIt Digital saves the consumer the time and hassle of ripping music and has similar services to and RipIt Digital has bootstrapped its way to converting more than 2,000 gigabytes of music over the course of one year.

TableTop Interactive brings to together television and the web by turning tables at your sports bar or restaurant into an entertainment control center. Each device is always connected to servers, providing live sports scores and updates linked to a DirecTV sports feed. You can check up on news, play touchscreen games, compete against people at your location and across the country in trivia and fantasy sports, and order drinks and food right from your table at your favorite sports bar. It is like a super remote control so you can watch the game you want to watch, right at your seat. TableTop turned on its first units at Players Sports Bar in San Diego last month. TableTop has an interesting business model, which includes selling the actual devices, monthly service fees, a 50/50 split with any game revenue, and TableTop owners are entitled to 25% of the advertising slots on the system for use to either promote their bar or restaurant or to sell to third parties.

ZapTix, an online community ticketing site created by Christian Perry, recently launched in beta. Since the service is a young beta, and is two weeks from launch thus it is light on ticketing content and has a few wrinkles, but they should be ironed out in the beta period. ZapTix is looking to bring community theaters ticketing to the Internet. In true bootstrapping style the whole company was set up on less than $10,000 by outsourcing every step of the development process and hiring no full-time employees.