I had no illusions that attending this week's Babson College Rocket Pitch event outside Boston would give me much insight into the latest enterprise IT topics that Network World focuses on, but the dozen or so 3-minute business spiels I took in did shed light on a new generation of entrepreneurs’ thinking.
This generally 20-something crowd of mainly Babson students and alumni was well spoken and stuck to the program of introducing their business venture, explaining the value proposition (gotta get them using the lingo early!), outlining the opportunity (seemingly always in the multibillion dollar stratosphere) and asking for help, whether in the form of funding, talent or connections. About 90 pitches were made, up from 36 when the program started in 2000, split among categories such as consumer products, service, food/nonprofit and tech/mobile/Web. I hunkered down in the tech/mobile/Web room.
Right away it was clear this was a group of people whose ideas have taken shape within the increasingly mobile and Web-oriented world, with references to new businesses being the Netflix of this or the Uber or Yelp or Groupon of that.
One thing that struck me was the assumption that people are increasingly willing to give up their data. Sigil Interactive, for example, seeks to help brick-and-mortar shops compete better with online retailers with analytics-powered iPhone and Apple Watch apps that bring friends together at places like bars and restaurants and reward them for their efforts (“think group message meets Yelp plus Groupon”).
Another theme was a belief that any obstacles to bringing people and data together online could be overcome if the business plan was good enough.
- Babson MBA candidate Alfredo Keri pitched for Cargo-Match, “an Uber for trucks” in that it matches up shippers with carriers, with an initial focus in Florida and Latin America. He and his partners are on the lookout for an IT partner and seed capital to launch the platform next Spring.
- Time Saver’s Joanna Geisinger, another Babson MBA candidate, wants to make well paid surgical device reps more efficient by syncing them up with live surgical schedules so they don’t wind up wasting hours sitting around hospitals when surgeries are canceled or delayed. Given the challenges healthcare organizations and medical offices have had to date in sharing patient and other information, this will surely be a challenge
- Olivia Kelley of Bquipped wants to match up athletes with sports equipment companies via a SaaS offering to make the buying process better, ensuring that athletes really get the gear that’s right for them.
- Noah Gordon of Jaze discussed his vision for extending mechanic and repair shops into smartphones to answer questions like: Why the heck is that check engine light still on...
- Fernando Duque of Leassy looks to extend "the sharing economy" fostered by startups like Airbnb and Fivver to the world of consumer goods like GoPro cameras, drones or even expensive backpacks that you might not use that often and wouldn't mind renting out for a few bucks.
- Gravyty’s Rich Palmer, whose career has taken him from Wall Street to Berkeley, was promoting a business that “combines predictive modeling, highly curated data visualization and cutting-edge fundraising research to produce an intuitive cloud-based dashboard” designed to make fundraisers more effective. If it all goes right, the fundraisers would know just when to pounce on the most generous moneybags. Django, Python and/or SQL talent is needed…
Demand for tech talent was prevalent. Experienced as a tech lead at Zipcar, Naveed Ghalib now wants to “make giving out directions a thing of the past” via a new venture called AddySpot that needs money to create a dynamic website and for mobile app development. Julie Bowerman, a Babson MBA student, needs “technological expertise to determine the feasibility of the idea” behind Shopping Advisor, a venture focused on helping shoppers better visualize how furniture might fit into their home. And Mason Clemence is seeking a CTO to help Court Kings, a web and mobile platform to match up sports court/field availability with those who want to play.
Other entrepreneurs at the event sounded as though they were perhaps further along on the tech side of things. Scott Weinberg of Libertas, which wants to be “not the first over-the-top [video distribution] solution, but the best and most disruptive,” previously worked for a startup that Cisco bought, and his resume also includes stops at Oracle, eDocs, and going way back, EDS. His message was one of starting from scratch, rather than trying to make due with incremental change as so many established companies have done over the years, with sometimes less than stellar results.
And then there was Deniz Emre, whose Qopy found a warm place in my heart. The venture aims to "connect technology companies with great writers, domain experts." Glad to see someone is looking out for tech writers...