Monday, October 1, 2012

My Picks from StartX Campus Demo Day September 2012

Demo Day is exactly what it sounds like - a bunch of startup companies give short presentations of their product/service in order to showcase their work to the media and to solicit users/investors/people to work for them. This particular demo day was for past and present StartX (and therefore Stanford) affiliates.

The event was very well-attended with over 1000 RSVPs and eventually a waitlist to get in. The room was full of curious students (with quite a few MBAs), fellow entrepreneurs, and interested spectators. The whole thing was livestreamed on the StartX website but unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a recorded version to show you now.

Both keynote speakers, John Lilly and Aaron Levie, were informative and very charismatic. Aaron Levie being 27 years old is simultaneously intimidating and inspiring.

Here's a photo of the room that John Lilly took on his smartphone, instagrammed, and then posted on his tumblr:

I can't remember how many startups presented - it must have been something like two dozen. They span across many different fields - social networking, fashion, travel, health, education, etc. As I was watching, I realized how difficult it is to start a successful company. Some ideas were great but something in the execution was off. Others were just too complicated or superfluous to really catch on with the general public without being mounted on a platform they already use. And then there were those that have already been done. 

Not that I'm an expert on tech innovation - I only jumped on the smartphone bandwagon two years ago and I still don't have a Pinterest. But sometimes, it's easier to evaluate the viability of an app or product from the layperson's point of view.

Without further ado, here are my favourite pitches of the day:

Watchup is an iPad app that generates a personalized video playlist from your favourite news channels. This is a great idea for those who like to catch up on current events over breakfast. This is one I would definitely use myself. It also reminds me of Zite, another app that I'm fond of.

Mindsumo is an experiential education platform that allows organizations to pose real world challenges to college students. Problems range from "Reduce traffic jams in US urban city centers" to "Reduce childhood obesity in your community". Winners are rewarded cash prizes, an invaluable experience, and networking opportunities. 

Pixelee is a tool that provides brand managers a way to collect user-generated photos, use them to promote their brand, and then analyze the photos to learn more about their customers. 

Appfluence created the Priority Matrix which is organizational software that manages your projects and responsibilities to let you know what to work on next. The Priority Matrix evaluates which tasks are most urgent and critical and creates a to-do list. I haven't tried this out yet but it looks promising.

Nutrivise is a nutrition app that creates tailored meal plans. Its best feature is probably the "NutriSCORE" which lists healthy meal options around you, right down to the ordering instructions. My only gripe is that considering how quickly restaurants pop up or go out of business and how often menus and/or ingredients are changed, I'm not sure this app will be able to stay up-to-date with its information. Ideally, I would like the NutriSCORE feature to be on an existing service I already use like Yelp or UrbanSpoon. Still a great idea nonetheless.

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