I couldn't escape the irony of spending Wednesday morning on Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, listening to show-and-tell presentations from 15 Israeli tech start-ups.
While Microsoft is trying to buy its way into becoming a more serious challenger to Google, here was a collection of very talented bootstrap operations trying to turn their respective "aha" moments into real businesses.
What with global stock markets going from bad to worse nearly every day, this was a tonic reminder that some incredibly creative development work continues apace regardless of the manic gyrations on Wall Street.
The sessions were organized by the California Israel Chamber of Commerce. Here's a link to its Web site, where you can find the full list of presenters. Even better, BlogTV (one of the companies that took the stage) recorded the proceedings, which you can replay.
For lack of a better reference term, you can classify the companies on display here under the Web 2.0 banner. (Someday, we've got to come up with a better description.) By now, you know the drill: a nimble start-up figures out a clever and unconventional way to view the world and rolls up its sleeves to get to work. I can't tell you how much of this stuff ultimately will wind up on the cutting room floor. Some of the companies already have funding. My hunch is that most of the rest won't have a hard time getting venture capitalists to provide backing.
What struck me, though is how--yet again--small start-ups are doing the more interesting development work.
This has been a recurring theme since the bubble burst. On paper, at least, there's no reason why a Microsoft, which hosted the event, couldn't have come up with a product like PageOnce, which developed a personal Internet assistant, or 8hands, which offers single point access to your social-network accounts (with real-time notifications).
But that's why Microsoft stands ready to spend billions on a Yahoo or an Aquantive or some much smaller fry. And it's not just Microsoft. Yahoo and Google have had little compunction about writing big checks. Is that the best way to secure a prosperous future? Ask Time Warner. I'm sure CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, still struggling to put a coda on his company's disastrous AOL acquisition, wishes he could turn back the clock.
Then again, when the M&A gurus plot their big plans on the white boards, who actually thinks they're going to get that badly burned?