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Innovator evening goes to the dogs

Guest correspondent Dorian Benkoil reports from the Powerpoint-meets-VC event in New York.

      It was no Always On summit, but a gathering of startups, VCs, angel investors and others interested in it all gathered for a New York version of PowerPoint-meets-VC on Wednesday. About 60 people crammed into a large boardroom for an "Innovator Evening" hosted by event entrepreneur Alan Brody of iBreakfast. Brody says these events have already gotten some $40 million in funding for new ventures.

      Interestingly (and perhaps this is an East Coast thing), the presenters were generally not about groundbreaking technology, but rather innovative uses of it. And many of them were also focused on particular professional niches. Among the nine companies presenting were the below:

    • MyHound is a service that promises to keep its registered users informed on everything they could possibly want to know about whatever entertainer, performer, musical group, etc.--as far as where they're playing, new releases and so on. President Andy Khazaei said he's got a growing audience and wants $1,000,000 to help build out the business more. One of the chief costs is licensing databases that include the kinds of info. that the audience wants. He emphatically doesn't believe in using search and parsing technology, saying he feels part of what his users want is highly relevant results.

      Khazaei walked away with the evening's "prize," an invite to the "Private Equity 2007 Year-End Venture Forum" at the Yale Club in New York on Nov. 15. Most companies have to pay upwards of $20,000 to be in the room and get in front of some serious money, said organizer Mike Segal of Joshua Capital Partners.

    • Parseon Inc. reads through and parses scientific text in specific "verticals" such as life sciences, and promises results almost as good as human indexers, but at a fraction of the cost. Chief Business Officer Rosemary Polsky-Newman got a nod by being asked for her business plan. She says Parseon's technology uses natural language processing and does things that a generalized search can't.

    • Design Buggy (no site yet) bills itself as a for interior designers and architects. Focusing on the far right of the long tail, it lets its "prosumer" audience share with each other ratings and how and where to find items only they want, everything from faucets and door frames to $40,000 coffee tables.

      Josh Grotstein of Silicon Alley Seed Investors, which tends to fork over $500,000 to $1.5 million in early stage funding, told me the three things he looks for in a company: a good team, a good technology or product, and a market, in that order. "The old saying is that an A team with a B product is better than a B team with an A product," he said. He and fellow judges-with-money Thomas Blum of Andersen Partners and Rosalind Resnick of Double R Ventures peppered all presenters with hard questions and good advice, and ended up splitting on MyHound, Parseon and Design Buggy for top honors before the room voted and chose MyHound.

      Guest correspondent Dorian Benkoil is a senior consultant at Teeming Media and a former editor of CNET's small business section.