Five to watch at DemoSpring 2010

Some 65 new companies will pitch to investors and the media at DemoSpring 2010. We pick out a few companies worth waiting for.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
3 min read

The Demo start-up-launch conferences are always grab-bags, but this edition of the show, which kicks off Monday, is more of a mix than usual. The show is light on established companies, which is a relief. No Cisco Systems or Ford stuffed shirts. Instead we get a mix of fresh consumer and enterprise companies, bringing software, services, and even some hardware to show off.

Josh and I, who will be covering the best demos as they happen, have received a few pre-show briefings. Some are quite interesting--see the list below. Some, though, left us wondering if the e-mail pitches came from 1999. A social network for group buying? Tools to turn Web sites into mobile apps? We get it, execution is everything, and there is almost always profit to be made in doing an old thing better. But the products that knock the socks off the Demo attendees are the ones that open our eyes to opportunity in new things, like a new mobile platform (Palm), the invention of the DVR (TiVo), and froze-to-order ice cream (Moobella). So far, we don't see any of those in this lineup.

Still, here are what we think are the five most likely companies to enter that short list of demos that have an impact beyond the hype of the show itself.

Rafe and Josh's five to watch from DemoSpring 2010
1. Venuegen. Boring Webex and GoToMeeting conferences need to die. Venuegen has a virtual world for meetings, complete with avatars and texture-mapped environments. Easy to mock? Absolutely. But surprisingly engaging in the demo. There's potential here. See my preview.

On the other end of the meeting spectrum, MightyMeeting has a little tool to put your library of demos and presentations in your smartphone and let you send them out over the Web from there. So as long as you have your phone, you're always be ready to drive a demo.

2. Genieo. This is a little tool that monitors what Web pages you hit and what you click on most frequently and then pops up alerts when there's new content from those sites that it thinks you'll find interesting. I dismissed it as yet another homepage tool that's doomed to obscurity, but I've been using it for a week and find it surprisingly useful. The mobile version is launching at Demo. See also: Fliptop, which monitors sites for updates for you, is also launching here. My6Sense, which helps filter the incoming flood of social data, will be at Demo as well.

3. Glide TV makes either long-range mice, or advanced remote controls, depending on your perspective. Solving the media control challenge for increasingly-complex and capable entertainment systems is a great opportunity. I'm eager to see this company's new toys at Demo. Hillcrest Labs, which makes the loopy (literally) "loop pointer" will also be at Demo.

4. Pi Mobility makes electric bikes. Theirs look cooler than others. The price is also coming down: The "Picycle" is $2,500.

5. Flinc. Speaking of green tech (see above), Flinc has new ride-sharing service that connects people who need car rides with people willing to give them. Presumably the online advance registration cuts down on crime. This has been tried before, but business-class hitchiking in crowded commuter corridors works already (especially when toll roads charge less for carpools). Flinc adds efficiency to the process. It can also handle payment for rides.

The above list is based on a few preview conversations and an early look at the lineup of presenters' sites, most of which clearly telegraphed what their presentations would be about. A small handful of presenting companies had nothing on their site indicating what they're going to show. So there may yet be some surprises here at Demo.