TechCrunch50 Session 2: Memes & News

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TechCrunch50’s second session introduced four companies related to breaking news and online trends. The judges for this panel were: Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube; Marrissa Mayer, VP product and search; Google; Ron Conway, prolific Angel investor; Dan Farber, Cnet, Editor in chief. You can see our coverage of the first panel here. A sampling of the judges’ comments follows the company summaries.

DotSpots

DotSpots – DotSpots is an annotation platform that allows users to add text or video comments to any piece of text on the web. Dotspots searches through millions of online news articles, indexing paragraphs of text and using an algorithm to determine when certain passages appear multiple times across different sites.

User comments are presented in each post as unintrusive (but readily visible) bubbles, which expand to reveal the text or video that has been added. Because the site has indexed content across the web, it can append these comments to any article reprints, such as an AP article that has been syndicated across thousands of publications.

To use Dotspots, users can either use a browser plugin/extension, or websites can include it for all users by adding a small snippit of code. The company says that companies have an incentive to include the sidebar, as it makes advertising on their webpages more visible.

Click here to watch a video of DotSpots’ presentation.


Angstro

Angstro – A newspaper for people in your professional network. The site skims through content across blogs, news sites, and a number of other sources to look for material that is related to the people you know and work with. The site can use existing accounts on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to establish which contacts you’re most familiar with and presents content accordingly.

Because there are often many people with the same name, Angstro uses an algorithm to associate certain keyword with each individual. When similar keywords are present in a post or article, the site can associate it with the correct person. Angstro’s feed is generated with the most recent and relevant stories appearing at the top, with the most attention given to stories about you.

While some might speculate that Angstro will only appeal to users from Silicon Valley with a strong web presence, Angstro maintains that personal connections are important throughout all professional fields.

Click here to watch a video of Angstro’ presentation.


LiveHit

LiveHit – An entertainment site that tries to present users with media that is the most popular at any given moment. LiveHit is geared towards the social networking audience, with categories that include entertainment, sports, shopping, and general information. The site monitors how many people are interacting with a piece of content, and presents the most popular links as a stack of clickable snapshots.

LiveHit says that third party sites have trouble keeping their programming up date, perhaps updating once a day if they’re lucky. Conversely, LiveHit updates its content every 2-5 minutes to make sure that viewers always have something fresh to look at.

It looks like LiveHit is aiming to partner with large content providers like MTV, which may not be able to highlight new videos as soon as they start becoming popular. The site is launching today in a public alpha.

Click here to watch a video of LiveHit’s presentation.


StockMood by Quant the News

StockMood by Quant the News – StockMood uses artificial intelligence to analyze current news articles to determine if a company is receiving good or bad press, and how that in turn affects the company’s stock price. The number of positive and negative articles are plotted on graphs alongside corresponding stock price adjustments. Among the metrics measured is the company’s “Mood”, which indicates how likely the public is to ignore bad news while still responding to positive news.

Besides the graphs, customers can also choose to receive notifications whenever StockMood detects a shift in a company’s public perception. The company’s monetization plans are uncertain, but it is considering offering subscription plans for this sort of service

While seasoned investors will probably resist switching away from their tried-and-true data sources, the site could have a strong appeal to more casual investors. Most investors have an intrinsic understanding that a company’s public perception in the news is correlated to its stock price, and StockMood helps them quantify these trends.

Click here to watch a video of StockMood’s presentation.


Session 2 Memes Panel Q&A

Marissa Mayer

Dotspots – I loved it. When we launched Chrome, it was clear that given what’s possible having more ratings and reviews are done differently on every site, so a general tool would be very powerful. It’s a really beautiful idea.

With Angstro – As we know from Google alerts, following people you know is big. An issue is the business model – would it be subscriptions or advertising driven?

Live Hit? There is a design and user experience issue. I usually break these things down as push versus pull. In general social networks are passive – people want push. I can’t tell how good the maps of these sites are – there seems like too much hunting and pecking – it’s hard for the user to navigate. How to make it more self evident, without so much work for the user.

StockMood – I thought it was clever – haven’t seen an analysis versus articles site before. A concern is whether it would be too sophisticated for lay people. And conversely, high end investors often have a personal way to analyse stock so getting them to adopt a new model is an issue. I liked that you all have a real technoligy which holds it all together.

DotSpots – Great idea – but where is the business model?

Dotspot repsonded: Out model is first ubiquity – come to the orchard in spring time! Ubiquity is key if we hit critical mass. We solved it with Shopzilla, we can do it again.

Dan Farber

Says that Google will give Dotspots the ubiquity it needs to hit critical mass…
StockMood – Thinks that it will appeal to users with large portfolios
LiveHit – Optimization of finding content is a big market
Angstro – It seems like something LinkedIn could use. Instead of being an island of information, could do this.. since it is already a focused business network.

Ron Conway

How are you going to monetise and commercialise the site? I thought Angstro and StockMood for consumers were very interesting. The variables that produce the ratings that you give… for commercial acceptance there need to be credibility for the consumer. What you lack in monestisatoin you have significant intellectua property.

StockMood responds:With the business model, there are lots of way to monetise. Our CEO is a trading systems guy and you can bet he would make trading systemns use this information. The lowest hanging fruit is subsciption alerts which help people to make money. Especially in the reasoning and AI – the underlying the mood judgements. We wrestled with this a bit becuase we can let the user drill down quite far to the formulas. How big percentage of market will want this is hard to say. There may be 2 diff categories of users.

Chad Hurley

DotSpot seems like a great consumer play and you are not just a destination but something that travels across the web. Angstro has an an interesting presentation of a newspaper like site – but the LinkedIn Comparison may provide more value. LiveHit – The Colours are less important than the product just working. What you’re working on will be more important for the future and you have to figure out ways to serve content. StockMood – I though that this was interesting and different in presenting information. I liked the simple ratings and moods system.

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