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TechCrunch50: Startups Get Schooled

As I was watching the TechCrunch50 conference Webcast this morning, the session on collaboration turned brutal.
As I was watching the TechCrunch50 conference Webcast this morning, the session on collaboration turned brutal.Mark Cuban, dot-com billionaire and noted tech pundit, is not known for mincing words. Confronted by an unconvincing presentation, he was brutally honest.

After listening to a pitch from Imindi Inc., Cuban, one of four TechCrunch50 panelists moderating the session, pronounced the company's presentation "the biggest bunch of b*******" that he'd ever heard.

Imindi wants to help people discover new information based on data the user has entered, sort of like Amazon's product recommendations applied across the Web. Sort of like Freebase.

But really, it was hard to tell what value the company has to offer. That's not a good sign.

It was one of those awkward reality TV moments. But Cuban's slam was necessary. So many Internet startups just have no genuine reason for being. They just don't solve a significant real-world problem.

Cuban offered an alternative strategy for the company: Turn its service into a corporate product. "Then you can find one messed-up soul who believes in this and charge them anything," he said.

Things went slightly better for Popego, a company that aims to generate interest profiles for users based on the user's own content feeds and posted content, aggregated from other social sites.

One of the company's executives called the service, "Your golden ticket to a more meaningful Web."

Again, Cuban cut to the chase. "You're going to need something to stand out," he said. "There aren't a lot of features that other products can't copy."

Great ideas, it turns out, are far more scarce than venture capital.