The 15 Most Intriguing Pitches from DEMO Fall 2011 (pre-show edition)

DEMO companies/products that I'll be most likely exploring during the show

The latest version of the DEMO show starts later today, in which 50+ technology startups present their products/companies in carefully practiced (at least most of the time) six-minute pitches. Many of these companies we'll never see or hear from again, but there are a golden few that make it past the show and find success in the marketplace. This could mean venture funding, purchase by a larger company, or even long-term success as a ground-breaking company. Here are some of the more intriguing pitches from the show, based on their description in the show's program guide, which we were given slightly early access to. I'm also adding some of my thoughts on why they're intriguing, and what questions I'll likely have for them when I see them in the exhibitor pavilion: (Disclaimer/Transparency: My parent company, IDG Enterprise, helps run the DEMO show in terms of registrations, marketing, sponsorships, etc., but the following opinions are my own) A.M.P. - Automated Music Personality

Description: A two-wheeled balancing robot that plays your music for you, which you control with your smartphone.

Early thoughts: Where can I buy one, and how much? This is like DJ Roomba from the TV show "Parks and Recreation" - who wouldn't want a music-playing robot? Can't wait to see this on stage or in the pavilion.

Fav.tv

Description: Fav.tv connects users to their favorite TV shows and to other people who love them too. Fav.tv transforms the TV viewing experience from "just watching" to a social and interactive experience. With Fav.tv, users can follow their favorite TV shows, view schedules, keep track of what their watching, read news and socially interact with all of the content and other users who are doing the same.

Early thoughts: Like several other sites before it (GetGlue, TV.com and others come to mind), this company wants TV to become as social as Facebook or Twitter trending topics. The problem, however, is that TV isn't a social activity to begin with (unless you're watching TV with someone in the same room). Many think that by adding the Internet to the equation, that physical location shouldn't matter, but they're missing another point - TV watching these days is not tied down to a specific time. With DVRs, Netflix and Hulu streaming and iTunes downloads, it can be days or weeks before some people watch a TV show (I'm not talking about sporting events, which is a possible area for social TV interactions). For example, over the weekend I watched the "Torchwood: Miracle Day" finale on a relative's DVR one day after it aired; for the latest "Doctor Who" episode, I downloaded it over iTunes and watched it in my hotel room a day later. For social interactions for these shows, one only needs to visit their favorite blog/web site dedicated to those particular shows and drop comments there. Unless there's something else that Fav.TV is offering to combat the DVRing of TV watching, I'm a bit skeptical here.

I-Tomb and I-Memorial

Description: I-TOMB.net is The World Virtual Cemetery, enabling the living to document and honor the departed by building their I-Tomb virtual tomb. I-MEMORIAL.com lets you build your own legacy. I-MEMORIAL.com is your multimedia autobiography and stores your personal messages, bank account numbers and passwords securely during your lifetime and posthumously shares your story, the messages and last wishes exactly as you designated. Upon passing, I-Memorials rest online in I-Tombs in The World Virtual Cemetery for generations.

Early thoughts: Nobody wants to discuss their eventual death, so this might be a hard sell for the company at first. But who doesn't want the chance to prepare their own memorial and leave their mark on the world, whether for family, friends, or just the chance to say to everyone, "Hey, I was here and I mattered." I like the idea of a site that can digitally store my myriad passwords, account numbers and things that I may want to pass on to other family members (especially if death comes suddenly), but I would be a bit concerned about the type of security the site is offering to protect that information while I'm still around. Also, this site has to eventually compete with Facebook, which can offer its own memorial sites for members - I've seen spouses that have taken over the deceased person's Facebook account or set up memorial pages for friends/family to view and add their own thoughts.

Iconfinder.com

Description: Iconfinder introduces a simple and powerful way of searching for icons. Iconfinder currently hosts almost 160,000 icons uploaded by designers or found by crawlers. By fulfilling the needs of professional developers, Iconfinder is the perfect tool for optimizing the time-consuming process of finding high quality icons. With the launch of premium icons, Iconfinder aims at being the first platform that offers both free and premium content together in a smarter way.

Early thoughts: Not being a professional designer or developer, at first glance I wondered about the need for a centralized site for people to find icons for their works. But the site looks good and can be an easy way to find icons.

JobOn

Description: JobOn combines employment listings with the ability for applicants to submit a video application. This provides convenience and visibility for seekers, while employers get to pre-screen applicants resulting in less turnover and lower costs.

Early thoughts: Adding a video component to the job application approach seems like a good idea, hiring managers can get a good sense about an applicant's seriousness for the job application. But there must be concerns about equal opportunity hiring regulations - employment/hiring is supposed to be about the strength of their qualifications, not their race, gender, and whether they're attractive or not (well, maybe in the modeling/acting industry). This adds an element of "well, I'm not going to hire ugly people" or "we're only going to hire women". This also has an American Idol feel to it, that people looking for jobs have to do something unique, funny, or gimmicky in order to get the attention of hiring managers.

TasteJive

Description: TasteJive is a wine recommendation affinity engine that makes it fun for the 'average' wine drinker to talk about or discover wines, and get more personalized advice. Rather than the typical wine jargon, TasteJive utilizes relate-able images and phrases to express wines as experiences - comparing it to places, music, food and other pop culture references; making it easy to share and consume on the go.

Early thoughts: I'm not even an "average wine drinker", but I have friends and family members who would enjoy a site, and hopefully it can help me with ordering wine at dinner, so I don't just go "Ummm, give me a red one that's fruity, but not super fruity".

MashOn's Dabble

Description: Dabble is an easy to use HTML5 web application that embeds and integrates into existing online shops to allow shoppers the ability to customize and personalize more than 350 diverse products, which are then manufactured on demand and shipped on the shop owner's behalf.

Early thoughts: I love the idea of customization for products, so seeing what kind of products the tool could do with this will be interesting. Make-your-own T-shirts? Sure, that's been done. But make-your-own toaster? That would be interesting. But again, not sure what 350 products are being offered here.

MeMeTales Publishing Platform

Description: The MeMeTales Publishing Platform lets anyone with a great children's story publish and sell their stories online and on mobile devices in a matter of minutes. MeMeTales gives authors and publishers (and kids!) a risk and cost-free way to publish their stories right into the hands of thousands of MeMeTales users already enjoying stories through the MeMeTales Reader.

Early thoughts: Self-publishing platforms aren't new, but this one seems to have the ability to put stories on a mobile device, which is a growing client for children's books (my kids love reading books on the iPad). I'm wondering about how much interactivity would be created with the platform (mobile books kind of demand some more interactivity than just putting a PDF into a reader). I'm also wondering about whether writers can team up with artists (I have some great ideas for children's stories that my kids would love, but my artistic ability goes little beyond stick figures). Also, is there a way that these stories could be published in book form? NeighborOil

Description: NeighborOil rewards people for being social and by taking advantage of deals from national retailers. Those rewards then convert to cash when people purchase home heating oil on our site. The NeighborOil platform is bringing together the highly fragmented oil business, which is comprised of more than 25 million Americans buying oil from more than 22,000 small companies. Members are saving more than 30% on their heating bills.

Early thoughts: If the rewards are as good as the 30% savings sounds, this might be worth a look for many homeowners that need to buy home heating oil. But with a very local market that is based a lot on customer service and loyalty, it might be a tough sell for getting homeowners to switch unless it's a very easy process to buy and receive oil this way (and if they address the customer service aspect).

Playkast

Description: Why watch videos when you can play them? Playkast enables content creators to transform online video into an interactive, social experience. Brands, media companies, entertainers and online communities use Playkast to increase participation, promote viral distribution, and develop new content. Partners select one of Playkast's "engagement templates" to supercharge online video, and embed it on their site or Facebook page.

Early thoughts: If this is just another video platform that lets viewers embed videos into a Facebook page, then I'm not impressed. But I want to see what they mean about being able to make video become an interactive, social experience. Is it like what YouTube is doing in allowing video content creators to make "choose your own adventure" type videos? If this what they mean, then I'm interested.

SteadyLens

Description: SteadyLens is a smart video camera for your mobile phone that allows you to easily record and share beautiful video. SteadyLens uses patent-pending technology to remove hand shake in real time. You can select from a multitude of real time filters, including: B&W, vignette and film grain. To share your videos, simply hit record. The video uploads to our servers in the background.

Early thoughts: If this truly solves the shaky cam on mobile phones, I'm all in. The filters are interesting in that it's like instagram for videos, but I'm more interested in the steady feature.

Stroome

Description: Stroome provides a new paradigm for digital storytelling and cloud-based content collaboration. A place where content creators can stream, edit, share and remix each other's content, then push finished pieces out to designated sites, from small groups to a potential audience of millions. So who's using Stroome? Journalists, filmmakers, musicians, students, sports enthusiasts, travelers, activists, bloggers from nearly 100 countries - basically anyone who wants to create original content for the web … or for themselves.

Early thoughts: Creating video content is hard, so if there's a way to make it easier for people for their purposes (without breaking any copyright law or issues), then sign me up. I'm looking forward to their presentation to see exactly what Stroome is offering.

VidQuik

Description: No hassles WebEx. A new web conferencing (video and presentations) platform that will disrupt the whole landscape. No downloads, no sign-up, no hassles. You don't even have to register or login. Just fill out a form, email is sent out, and then you're connected with your client, colleague or friend.

Early thoughts: It will be disruptive if it's that easy. Webconferencing is a huge market now, and video conferencing adds another level of complexity. If you're annoyed by the sign-ups and registrations just to do a conference with your colleagues (or friends or family, where this may appeal more), this is worth a look.

VisualBee

Description: VisualBee helps some 500 million PowerPoint users to create cool and engaging presentations in a single click. VisualBee is an automated graphic designer for PowerPoint. Making extended use of sophisticated algorithms, VisualBee analyzes the text and structure of a presentation, and builds a new professionally designed presentation with a unique template, pictures automatically selected to support the slide's text, animation and graphics. VisualBee transforms boring presentations into sparkling fun. From the technological perspective, VisualBee is the first company to create artificial intelligence software that emulates a human graphic designer.

Early thoughts: I applaud anything that can make PowerPoint presentations more interesting and useful. The untapped market for this are SOHO, individual users and education (including students, who are using PowerPoint more often than you'd think or like). These people have to do presentations but don't have in-house graphic services to help. This could be a winner if done right.

Zero2one's LUMOback

Description: Lumoback is a mobile health solution for managing back pain. Our system combines a posture-monitoring sensor with real-time feedback, engaging analytics, and personalized content. Think of us as your posture coach who guides you throughout the day to help you sit (and stand) taller, stronger and pain-free.

Early thoughts: Just like when your mother told you to sit up straight, this app can be a helpful reminder to people who suffer from lots of back pain to sit in the proper position. As long as the app isn't too annoying, I could see people using this to help improve their posture.

The show officially starts later today, keep watching this site, as well as NetworkWorld.com, for more coverage.

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