Midwest Startups Unite for Second TECH cocktail

The second TECH cocktail rocked Chicago on October 12 at the Gramercy. TECH cocktail – highlighted previously on TechCrunch – is a quarterly event co-hosted by Eric Olson and Frank Gruber that focuses on better connecting the local technology community. The second event attracted more than 350 guests: a mix of bloggers, podcasters, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, developers and tech enthusiasts. Vonage founder Jeff Pulver even dropped in from New York for a guest appearance. Photos from the event can be found here.

The event was captured on video by Liquid Talk, a Chicago-based startup focusing on enterprise podcasting solutions, which filmed event attendee testimonials (coming soon). Liquid Talk creates podcasts for large corporations to update employees with the latest company information. Technology Evangelist and Stone Cliff Productions also filmed interviews which should be out soon. Limousines were provided by midPhase hosting to give guests a classy way to get home, but according to Chicagoist there were so many limos that one was even reported stolen!

A number of established companies and startups showcased demonstrations:

eSigma, founded by Troy Haaland, offers one of the first standards-based consortium for publishing, consuming and managing Web Service-based business processes. Businesses that are looking to develop online products can leverage common elements, thus saving them time and money since they will not have to re-invent the wheel.

GrubHub is a Chicago-based free restaurant search engine developed by Mike Evans and Matt Maloney. GrubHub currently allows users to search for restaurants in Chicago, New York, Milwaukee and San Francisco with plans to expand to more cities soon. The site enables users to enter an address and then GrubHub returns restaurants that deliver to that address. Once a restaurant is selected GrubHub displays a menu, reviews, and coupons and even lets you create an account and place a food order online.

Pawky is an online video site for short film enthusiasts. It is about a year and half old and looks to grow short film content on the web. The selection of short films is currently in the hundreds and growing every day. The site also offers some web 2.0 social hooks which include film rating and comments. The most interesting or best-rated films are often bubbled to the top like the animated film Dealing with Women or the timely Life and Death of a Pumpkin. Since the short films are independent and user-contributed they do not have the same types of copyright issues that similar video sites might encounter.

Planypus, a product of Fifteen Reasons, a Chicago-based startup, makes planning a get together easy. Planypus works by notifying your friends by email, SMS text messaging, syndication feed (RSS) or by integrating into your online personalized homepage. Planypus has implemented tagging to allow for easier findablity of events or friends. Planypus sports a “My City” tab which suggests a number of local events and venues to help spark the planning process. In addition, Planypus enables user to organize a number of friends by creating groups. Planypus is soon to have a mobile version which will enable users to text to see plans, make plans, RSVP and make comments.

Time59 is a web-based timekeeping and invoicing product developed by Chris Monaghan, a Chicago tech developer with more than 20 years of experience. Time59 allows its users to create and manage multiple projects with various hourly rates, generate invoices and integrates with other third party applications like QuickBooks.
A few other startups did not demo but deserve a quick mention:

FitLink.com, founded by Jason Borro is a social network of people that want to get fit. It offers tools to help you get motivated connect with people tied into the health scene. For example, FitLink helps trainers connect with new clients, local gyms to find new members and local fitness groups to get their message out. FitLink’s business model revolves around selling premium services to health clubs.

HouseBlogs.net is a community-powered home improvement publication that allows users to blog about their home and home improvement projects. If you enjoy numerous weekend trips to Home Depot then this could be the site for you. HouseBlogs.net was started by Aaron and Jeanne Olson last year and was recently named one of the best real estate websites by Money Magazine. The site stemmed from blogging success in authoring House in Progress, a blog about living in a 1914 Craftsman-style bungalow in Chicago. It’s amazing the power of blogs these days. J

Menuism is a product with the slogan: “rate what you ate.” It’s similar to GrubHub and carries the restaurant theme as a mashup of open user-contributed restaurants, reviews, maps and menus. It also has a social network feel. Menuism was developed by Justin Chen and John Li, two UC Berkely engineers, as part of their company Two-Bit Operation and currently supports all US cities. Finally on a lighter note, Menuism has an orange mascot named Foodha who enjoys all kinds of foods and meditating on picturesque waterfronts, to guide users through the Menuism experience.

Metroproper, founded by Phil Tadros, is a social network for business or personal profiles with citizen journalism in cities around the world. MetroProper also acts as the parent site to the 400 localized metropolitan area community subsites – sort of like a local MySpace. Each site features blogging, RSS feeds, buddy lists, forums, event listings, real-time online status awareness, e-mail, instant messaging, classified ads, photos, tagging and bookmarking. The goal of Metroproper is to give individuals and small business tools to create a professional online presence. Metroproper had a pre-launch party in July but the site is set to officially launch soon.

Bottom-line: TECH cocktail 2 rocked an otherwise quiet Thursday evening in Chicago!