This year's TechCrunch50 show is over, and 50 new start-ups later, we narrow it down to five of our favorites.
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Trying to weed through the 50 companies that launched over the past two days is overwhelming for you, and us. As done in years past, we've picked five of our favorites from TechCrunch50. These are all consumer-oriented services that bring innovative ideas to the table and have a good chance at succeeding.
Note: CNET's judges for this article were Josh Lowensohn (me) and Caroline McCarthy, both of whom watched all 50 on-stage pitches.
Story Something is one of the few kid-oriented products we've seen in the past few years that doesn't have some crazy scheme with virtual worlds, virtual currency, or a way to suck kids dry of their hard-earned allowances. Instead, Story Something is set up to create personalized stories for kids that the parent can set up and read with minimal effort.
Much like Mad Libs, parents can insert the name of their child, and things they can relate to (like their friends, or parent's names) into an existing work. The service then goes through existing stories and inserts the names. Children also have the option of picking what happens next if it's a multipart story, akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure series.
Stories can be printed, and e-mailed for reading on mobile devices and e-readers like the Kindle. It even includes illustrations in these copies. As a time saver, the service can also be set up to e-mail you new stories as they come in, using information about your family that you set up in previous sessions.
The service is currently in private beta, and is planning to have a free version with a handful of sample stories, as well as a premium version which includes a full library of content for $3 a month.
ToyBots Woozees isn't a product as much as a platform. Think of it like Teddy Ruxpin, but Internet-enabled, and available in a whole slew of smart toys. ToyBots wants to get toy manufacturers using their standardized firmware, which lets toy owners swap personalities, and run downloaded software like games and stories.
This whole idea of shared content is hosted on a large network, kind of like Apple's iPhone and iPod App Store, so that games you buy for one device can work for another. It also lets third-party developers program new ways for consumers to interact with that old toy.
As a business this can bring something toy makers don't currently have with most stuffed animals: a revenue flow post-purchase. Instead of relying on accessories like additional outfits, and other characters, they can make money off software sales. Of course before this happens, ToyBots has to get toy manufacturers on board.
Spawn Labs was pitched as a "Slingbox for video games" and that's exactly what it does. The $199 box is a one-time purchase that users hook up to their home game console and their Internet connection. It then lets them play video games from any Internet-enabled computer as if they were playing it on their home TV.
The service has three big things going for it: One is that it pipes the content in 720p HD, which is the proper size for most laptops and what its creators tell us is as good as you can get for real-time streaming without bulging the price tag to around $5,000. It's also a one-time purchase, which means there's no monthly service fee beyond whatever you're paying for electricity and Internet. And, the company tells me it plans to offer compatibility with future game consoles through updated hardware drivers, meaning that you can buy the box now and not worry about having to upgrade it when the next generation of consoles arrives.
Considering it costs close to what most current-generation game consoles do, it may be a hard sell, but after having tried it out at the company's demo booth we definitely want one--and think many other gamers, and people in one-TV households will as well.
Similar to what Bing Travel (formerly Farecast) does with airplane pricing forecasts, SeatGeek does for other types of tickets like concerts and sporting events. The service doesn't do this for main ticket providers though. Instead it tracks prices on secondary markets like Craigslist and StubHub where tickets are being resold, then tells you whether the price is set to go up or down with 80 percent certainty.
Where this service has the most potential to succeed is helping people who don't know a great deal about a particular event they want tickets to. It's taking the guesswork out of the buying process, as well as instilling extra confidence in transactions where people would have otherwise been reluctant to spend a few hundred dollars.
It's also got the makings of a great business. According to its founders, it's already become profitable based on a small scale alpha test.
AnyClip was the only video platform introduced at this year's show. It solves a really basic problem of helping people find specific parts of a movie, then sharing it elsewhere.
In the early days of YouTube, before the site really started locking down on copyrighted material, this was common practice. AnyClip's (legal) answer to that is getting the studios on board, with the promise of reinvigorating DVD sales and interest in a large back catalog of movies--all of which are linked to sales sites like iTunes and Amazon where users can buy a full copy of the content.
Right now it has a database of around 100 films, all of which are split up into four minutes or less clips. It has a group of users that are going into full film files and tagging specific moments so that its search engine can index them. The service eventually plans to expand into other types of media like TV shows and sporting events.