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February Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup Notes

I went to the Boulder Denver New Tech meetup tonight and, boy was it a good time. I’ve been to a few Boulder Java Users Groups, and some more academic talks at CU, but this was different than both. At the BJUGs, it’s typically a bunch of geeks and a very technical topic. At the CU colloquia, it’s an academic crowd, with a lot of focus on academic questions, and an even more technical topic.This meetup, on the other hand, had, I felt, a nice mixture of technical folks and business folks. This was the sixth one held in Boulder–for more information check out their website. I believe the format is 5 minutes of presentation followed by questions eliminates a lot of fluff. The presenters tonight were:

* David Cohen:

David talked about his new organization, which recently was in the local press. will select 10 teams with technology ideas and fund them for a summer (to the tune of $15k). During that time, they’ll be mentored by a wide variety of successful local entrepreneurs and, at the end, have a chance to pitch their idea to angel investors. The strength of the team will be a large factor in determining the winners, and applications are due on March 31 (they’ve already had over 100 teams apply).

* Russ Bryant:

Russ talked about the website his company is building, which focuses on the urban lifestyle demographic (he mentioned blacks and latinos in particular). It’s particularly aimed a segment of the population that has bad or no credit, and a large part of the business plan depends on selling prepaid debit cards to that population. Such a debit card will allow users to participate in internet purchasing, as well as gain the other benefits of debit cards (users can charge up the cards at stores around the country). will also be a drop ship ecommerce site, and has a long list of partnerships.

* Elliot Turner:

Elliot focused on mashups for the ordinary user. His application, Alchemy Point, is a Firefox toolbar that aims to provide some of the functionality of GreaseMonkey, but for normal users. He mentioned that mashups are a great way to create a user centric web, by allowing users to grab only what is interesting to them (as opposed to most websites, which have a distinctly larger audience). The toolbar comes with a number of preconfigured mashups (‘make this text bold’, ‘put a map next to this address’) that have been written by his company. Users also have the capability, with a simple XML syntax (with a graphical UI yet to come), to create their own, and to share them.

* Dennis Yu:

Dennis talked about search engine marketing, which is the business of building campaigns on the major search engine sites. He said a campaign consists of keyword + ad copy + bid for the keyword. He showed an example of a campaign his company built for a New Year’s Eve ticket seller and said for every 9 cents the company spent on SEM, they got one dollar in sales. He also mentioned that there are a ton of MFA (made for AdSense) sites out there, and as an advertiser, you need to be aware of sites sending you worthless referrals and block them as soon as possible, as the click fraud happening is tremendous. Oh yeah, they’re also looking to help nonprofits use SEM.

* Fernando Cardenas:

Fernando discussed the application his company is building to combat software failure. First, the cost of software failure is $60 billion a year, and 25% of all software projects are just plain abandoned. The reason for that is the disconnect between the developers and business folks. His solution is to put better tools in the hands of business folks, and have the tools create a set of business rules and a UI that the business people are happy with. Then, with the app 60-80% done, the business users can hand it off to the developers for fine tuning. I’m a bit skeptical, because I think there’s no silver bullet and the hard parts of any development conversation are the grinding out of requirements. Plus, I’ve seen one too many scary Access applications (and built a scary Paradox application myself)–not sure how the maintainability of the code generated by the tool will be. But I hope that his application succeeds as there’s a ton of places where simple applications could save a lot of scutwork. Thingamy is in the same space, I think.

All in all it was quite a nice night, and well worth attending. A lot of exciting energy in the air–it reminded me a bit of 1999 (I even saw a fellow with a Netscape fleece on!).