July Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup Notes

I went to the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup last night, and it was a blast, as always. Due to the format, 5 minutes of demo, 5 minutes of questions, it’s hard to get much technical depth in any one presentation, but it is always interesting to see the wealth of different businesses that are utilizing the Web. The New Tech Meetups are now being videotaped, but I’m not sure where the video is being posted. Additionally, the CU Entrepreneurial Law Clinic is looking for 6-12 clients–they provide free legal advice to startups.

I’m going to do a separate post about each speaker, and link to them here.

At the end of the night, several folks announced they were looking for people to fill positions: 1 flash, 1 java, 1 flex, 1 ruby on rails. I thought that breakdown was interesting. In addition, someone from the Altera group stood up and announced they were looking to do deals of $3-5M, investing in energy sector startups (and no, just using electricity doesn’t make you an energy sector startup–someone asked).


July New Tech Meetup Notes: Printfection

Printfection was the last company to present–they do on demand printing of t shirts, etc. They started up in a DU dorm room. They are essentially a cafepress clone that focuses on inkjet printing to cloth, rather than screen printing. They compete on quality and automation. Printfection is also are more of a white label printer, where you can set up a very customizable storefront. Eventually, they’re going to have an API (after the Christmas rush) that other sites will be able to use. Their average order size is 1.8 shirts, which I thought was quite interesting–most of their business is micro orders. Just another example of how the internet is shaking up typical business models by making mass customization cheap.

I like to support local companies, so I’ll give them a try next time when I do a custom shirt. I have a couple of cafepress shirts, so I’ll be interested top see how they compare.

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: Villij

Villij was the next presenter. They are a techstars startup; their mission is to introduce folks based on common interest. How are these common interests determined? By what you write on the internet. So far, they have the basics of a platform built, but are not trawling the internet just yet, so introductions are based on data you’ve entered into their system (like match.com, but without the romance). They are looking for interested folks to get on their waiting list to get a beta login.

The issue I have with this, and almost every other social network, is something I have often thought about–the binary nature of connection. I am either all your friend or I have no connection to you–no shades of gray. There’s no concept of grouping of visibility. I presume because this is a hard problem for folks to solve in the real world (“let’s see, who should I invite to the party”), let alone represent in a digital format. I have at least two online personas, work and personal, and there may be folks that I’m interested in meeting because of one that I wouldn’t care to meet based on the other. But maybe they’ll solve that problem….

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: LocalGuides

LocalGuides presented next. This is such a fantastic idea, I’m envious. You know the little slips of paper that someone puts in every wedding invitation, with information about local hotels, hotspots and wedding location information? Well, LocalGuides lets you do this on the web and share it. You can be as detailed as you’d like (adding images, etc), and you can share it with other folks or not. They monetize it by providing links to businesses in your area.

I created my own localguide to Boulder easy classic rock climbs. The interface is very web 2.0–there’s no save buttons–when you move off input fields, they are saved. The signup was a bit unclear–you have to activate your account via a link sent in an email. That’s standard practice, but I saw no notice of that.

If I were a listing real estate agent, I think that a localguide would be a tremendous complement to a virtual tour.

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: Shareyourlook

Someone from Share Your Look spoke next. Basically, a YouTube for the fashion industry. You can upload photos of your style and folks can comment. They also aggregate fashion blogs. Development is done in Romania, and images are checked for obscene content in Thailand, so it’s a real distributed company.

When asked about the business model, the speaker replied (I paraphrase): we have a long and complicated business model, and I’d be glad to talk to you afterwards about this. That smelled a bit of The Underpants Gnomes but they already have designers using the site as a lead generation tool, so I am guessing there are a number of possible ways to monetize the site.

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: Feed

Dean Rizzuto spoke about Feed, which is a mobile payment technology. Officially 3 months old, they already have 200 merchants signed up. Any phone that can send text messages can use the technology, so the potential market is huge. Basically, you sign up on the Feed website, and give them some money. Then, when you are at a merchant that accepts feed, you SMS your pin to the Feed number. You recieve an authorization code good for 15 minutes. The merchant can then enter that code into either their POS system or a standalone, Feed provided and maintained terminal. The Feed system then makes sure you have enough money in your account, and tells the merchange yes or no, and, if yes, withdraws the sum and gives it to the merchant.

What does the merchant gain? Feed charges a flat fee of $0.19 a transaction, which is much cheaper than typical credit card transaction fees. Feed doesn’t provide the consumer the same protections as credit card companies, as the transaction is treated as if you had paid cash. Additionally, once someone has bought something with Feed, the merchant can send them special offers (in the future, possibly focused to the SKU level). I wasn’t clear about how a user could opt out from those offers.

What does the consumer gain? Dean was honest that they are targeting the youth market (the millenials) who use their cell phones all the time, and are interested in quick transactions. For someone with a credit card already, it might not be such a win.

I wonder how secure SMSes are, especially if you’re sending a pin that can be used to retrieve money. A quick search of the internet seemed to imply that SMSes are relatively secure, but that is a definite issue to me.

But, if you want to try Feed, text ‘pickle’ or ‘noodles’ to 39598 and you’ll get a one time credit to buy lunch, at the Spicy Pickle or Noodles, respectively. I think this might just be in Boulder, but I’m planning to give it a try. (I have worked with Dean in the past.)

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: Startup Weekend

Andrew Hyde talked next, about Startup Weekend. This was an event in Boulder on July 6-8, where folks came together to build an entire startup. 68 folks attended. They created a full on S-corp, revised ideas from 50 to 10 to 3, and decided upon some kind of survey tool. The product did not quite launch. They had no business plan, but did write an executive summary. Andrew plans to expand this to other cities (London, etc). There will be another one in Boulder in 6 months.

Several folks asked what the benefit was in signing up for this, especially as the product did not launch. Andrew stated that the main goal of Startup Weekend was to meet other folks “that can kick ass” and to grow your network.

I don’t doubt it was a pressure cooker environment that smoked out some quality people, but I’m not quite convinced that a weekend with no firm monetary goals at the end is the best way to find folks who can succeed. I don’t know, I’ll have to keep my eye on it, and perhaps give it a go in December.

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July New Tech Meetup Notes: Don Dodge

Don Dodge spoke first, and gave a short history of his career; he’d been through a number of ‘name’ startups, including Altavista, where they invented multimedia search (searching images, video, etc), Napster, and Groove. He is now in the Emerging Business division at Microsoft, and has two roles. First, he communicates with VCs and lets them know where Microsoft is investing, and, more importantly, not investing. This lets the VCs make wiser choices about their portfolios. Second, he assists startups in dealing with Microsoft, including introductions to technical, marketing and sales resources, depending on where the startup is in the business cycle. He only deals with companies that are $10-15M in revenue, after that they get passed along to account managers. Don also mentioned the Empower program, which lets startups get boatloads of Microsoft software for $375 (Joel has talked about this program too). On a final note, Don mentioned that Microsoft had acquired 35 companies in the last 24 months, and that they preferred to acquire companies in the $30-50M revenue range, doing interesting innovative things.

I thought it was very interesting that Microsoft now makes it clear to VCs where it plans to invest–that helps to lessen the fear that a startup is merely doing market research for Microsoft. Robert Reich, the guy from Me.dium that helps run the Meetup, put in a plug for Microsoft and said that they had been a pleasure to work with.

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Marc Andreessen considers his blogging

Well, Marc Andreessen has been tearing up the blogging world, with prolific excellent writing including his series on the truth about venture capitalists and his ongoing series on startups, among others. But after 5 weeks of blogging, he has written about 11 lessons he’s learned from blogging. It’s an interesting read, and I think every blogger wants to be a little self referential, as the feelings tha blogging evokes are powerful. Heck, I did it myself. I hope he proceeds back to regular content, as opposed to blogging about blogging, quickly, but I do think he makes some strong points, especially #5:

Fifth, writing a blog is way easier than writing a magazine article, a published paper, or a book — but provides many of the same benefits.

I think it’s an application of the 80/20 rule — for 20% of the effort (writing a blog post but not editing and refining it the quality level required of a magazine article, a published paper, or a book), you get 80% of the benefit (your thoughts are made available to interested people very broadly).

I encourage everyone who is interested in not being a commodity to blog (and that pretty much means everyone!). Because of the widespread distribution, if you have something interesting to say (and I believe pretty much everyone does), you can quickly gain readership. It’s the best form of marketing for individuals that there is.

That doesn’t mean blogging is easy–there are posts I’ve written on this blog that, as I read back over them from a few years on, are rather embarrassing (technical mistakes, pompous pontifications, etc). But the benefits to having a nearly four year public collection of my thoughts and interests including some very useful and articulate posts, outweighs the less than stellar bits.


PHP form generation

I just wanted to say: if you are building an application in PHP and you need to edit or search data from a relational database, HTML_QuickForm, DB_DataObject, and, occasionally, DB_DataObject_FormBuilder, can be very useful for prototyping and, depending on your client’s needs, building.¬† The tools are well worth a look if you’re planning to write any custom PHP database manipulation code.



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