Silicon Valley Crash Course: 14 Startups In 28 Hours
I just returned from a trip to earthquake land where I had one-on-one meetings with 14 tech startups in just over a day. Their products included a project-management app, e-mail marketing tool, widget maker, and PC database. The big unanswered question: Who needs them?
I just returned from a trip to earthquake land where I had one-on-one meetings with 14 tech startups in just over a day. Their products included a project-management app, e-mail marketing tool, widget maker, and PC database. The big unanswered question: Who needs them?Monday morning started in Marina del Rey with a breakfast discussion about new PC database software from startup QD Technology. QD brought in a few early adopters and prospective customers to talk about the needs of heavy-duty data users who aren't always connected to the network. The company's read-only, compressed database can squeeze, say, 500 Gbytes of data down to a tenth of that size on a PC or laptop. The idea is to let business analysts and power users run fast queries against large data sets even when they're on the go.
From there, it was off to San Mateo (via LAX to SFO) and a visit to Salesforce.com's AppExchange incubator, which opened in the spring in the former headquarters of Siebel Systems. Salesforce provides office space, a supportive "think like us" environment, and access to VC funding to entrepreneurs who want to write apps for hosting on AppExchange. Thirty-four early stage companies have signed on since the incubator launched six months ago.
The appeal to emerging companies? Salesforce's fast-growing customer base represents a ready-made market for their apps, and they can piggyback on Salesforce's IT infrastructure without having to invest in their own servers and software plumbing. The incubator is intended to be a year-long residency, not a permanent address. "Ideas come in, and companies go out," says Salesforce VP of corporate strategy Bruce Francis.
In two hours, I met five companies:
Dream Factory makes rich Internet apps for project management, presentations, document sharing, and other types of collaboration.
Ribbit develops software that integrates cell calls with Web-based Salesforce apps. It lets you, for example, attach a voice message from a sales prospect to a Salesforce "task" and store it for later playback.
Right90 provides a sales forecasting tool for manufacturing companies. The company, which had three customers a year ago, now has 17 (including electronics giant Sharp) since plugging into AppExchange.
StakeWare has an app that lets companies track their "social responsibility." A dashboard provides views of company performance in areas such as the environment and human rights.
Vertical Response enables e-mail marketing campaigns using your Salesforce contact list. Because such e-mail blasts tend to be smaller and between known parties, more messages get opened ("open" rates can be as high as 30%) and fewer get blocked as spam.
The next day, Tuesday, brought back-to-back video interviews for the premier of Startup City TV, which will appear on InformationWeek.com in the coming days. I squeezed in eight interviews before jumping on an afternoon flight back to New York. They included:
Aggregate Knowledge, whose discovery software makes content or product recommendations to Web site visitors based on what like-minded people have done.
Agistix, a hosted logistics application that helps companies keep track of packages and freight through various channels.
Gydget, which provides a widget-building platform for entertainment companies and sports franchises, with potential application in other industries.
Mino Wireless, which cuts costs for BlackBerry users who place overseas calls by routing calls over VoIP and providing centralized administration for groups of users. (Mino won InformationWeek's first-ever startup competition in September.)
Rebit, maker of a foolproof PC backup appliance that works by simply plugging into a USB port. (Not to be confused with Ribbit, the Salesforce incubator company, both of which have a green frog as their logo.)
Ruckus Wireless, whose 802.11 access points extend wireless signals greater distances and around obstacles.
Stratavia, a developer of data center automation software.
Untangle, which offers no-cost network access and spam filtering software based on open source.
So there you have it, 14 companies in 28 hours, offering everything from widgets to data center automation software, all geared toward businesses. (And that's only half the meetings that took place during that time as InformationWeek expands our startup coverage. All told, my colleagues Elena Malykhina, Alex Wolfe, Michael Singer, Fritz Nelson, and I met with some 30 startups in New York and California.)
Not all of these companies will make it-at least not as originally conceived. Gydget has already been recast once; the company was originally known as Attendio. And StakeWare spent two years developing its social responsibility software in Java before porting over to Salesforce.
StakeWare has yet to land its first customer, though VP Jean-Raymond Naveau insists his company is getting close. Meantime, StakeWare founder and CEO Natan Zaidenweber drives around with something in the trunk of his car that shows the lengths he's willing to go to succeed. The body of a competitor? (Boo!) No, just a server that's no longer needed now that StakeWare is hosting on Salesforce.com.
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