The most promising launches at DemoFall 2009

Now that the start-up conference is over, we can review the best products, companies, and concepts presented--regardless of what the Demo gods liked.

Before the DemoFall start-up conference kicked off, I wrote a " What to watch " story covering what I thought would be the hot products at the show. As usual, I identified a few of the interesting companies, missed some others, and misidentified some that I thought would be hot but weren't. Now that the show is over and I've spent time with almost all the products introduced there, I've picked out my top winning products, companies, and concepts. I paid no attention to the wisdom of the crowds nor to the official Demo God awards handed out at the show. In my mind, perhaps uniquely, these were the five most interesting Demo launches:

Emo Labs makes good sound from clear plastic. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Emo Labs has invented a way to send high-quality sound through a clear, flat panel that can be place on top of a flat-screen TV or a computer monitor. The demo rocked and the business is straightforward: Sell technology licenses to Sony, Panasonic, Apple, etc. Great demo, great tech, great business. Read more.

The most disruptive business was Cortera, which I called "dullest of Demo" in my writeup on Tuesday. This company does credit ratings for business. Stay awake, though: it's a $42 billion global business dominated in the U.S. by Dun & Bradstreet. Cortera's system is cheaper to run and makes for much less expensive reports for users. It could expand the market for credit reporting to more businesses and win a financially significant portion of the market, too. Read more.

Point of Wealth: Your money checks in. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Another financial play, Point of Wealth makes a "reverse ATM" that lets people who are paid in cash deposit their money to cover bills, pay into retirement funds, and top up prepaid credit cards. It's a good service for the "unbanked," as they say, and a solid business. It will take a small fee (in the $1 to $2 range) for each transaction. Read more.

More television viewing is moving to the Web, and Twirl TV adds a social layer to that activity. A compelling and simple viewer for streaming available online TV shows, it also makes it easy to start conversations on Facebook about those shows. You can also see what your friends are watching and if they haven't watched the latest show you like, and give them a hard time about it either way. It's the selection of content combined with a user experience that's no more complicated than it needs to be that makes it work. Read more from Venture Beat.

Zorap was one of several video chat services introduced at Demo, but it looks like the easiest and most enjoyable to use of the bunch. While the demo showed the product being used as a fun family chat room, it also showed how it made it very easy to share pictures, videos, and files with participants--which is valuable for people in business as well. The product lacks sufficient security layers for the workplace at the moment, but layer that in and you've got a fun, easy, and capable tool for real-time sharing and conversation. Read more from Venture Beat.

Some of the most popular products at Demo are not in my list. I left out Datecheck, for example. This was a very fun demo of a free public records look-up service from Intelius. From a marketing perspective it's a hit, but technologically it's just a coat of paint on the Intelius system--and, if you want deeper data than Datecheck provides, you have to pay for it. Other clever products seemed more like features than standalone companies; TrafficTalk comes to mind.

DemoFall 09 was a strong conference with a wide range of clever ideas. Despite my criticism of the Demo conference itself , it is always great fun to see the innovation that gathers at this show twice a year.

 

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