I just attended the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup (the one in Boulder) and it was fun and enlightening as always. The presenters were:
- Ken Zolot, one of the mentors for TechStars
- A presenter from the Singapore government IT department
First, after the networking over beer and snacks, we all went into the auditorium. We started off with some crazy Ted video, while everyone chatted. This was the first event I’ve been at with a twitterstream. Robert Reich did some administrative stuff, including a plea for money. Apparently, the new tech meetup requires about 1300 dollars a month to keep going–mostly for food and drink–and sponsorship has dried up. Then there was an opportunity for job announcements. There were 4-5; most were for php programmers, though I did hear one for a Django programmer. We did not do ‘looking for work’ announcements–is that ominous?
Events were announced after the job announcements petered out. Andrew Hyde announced that Startup Weekend Boulder is this weekend. The Boulder Small Business Development Center (who knew there was one?) is having a workshop June 3rd about ‘access to capital’. There’s an Ignite Boulder coming up in July. I’m sure I missed one or two announcements. Then we were on to the presentations. Apparently, if you launch at the New Tech Meetup, you have the option of going ‘under the microscope’. I think this means that you crowdsource some of your business ideas to the New Tech Meetup; Robert mentioned that it also included some other services, including 30 minutes with one of the Foundry Group founders.
LocalBunny apparently launched last month and chose to go ‘under the microscope’, and had an open board meeting tonight. They have a service that allows users to ask questions on facebook, sms (soon) and twitter, and get answers from companies. They used to have some kind of consumer play, but after a month of market feedback, have decided to focus on providing ‘white label’ social media integration to businesses. The use case is, I ask a question of the Boulder Theater via my facebook status. This goes to the Local Bunny servers, which attempt to answer it in an automated fashion, via whatever avenue you asked the question. If the answer is not available, it is passed on to the company in question, and you are notified of that. My take is that this could be very useful, but it will be hard for me as a user to know how to contact the appropriate company. In addition, one of the selling points is that the answer to the question may be broadcast on your facebook status (again, depending on how you ask the question)–I’m not a fan of that. And the idea of automated answers seems like a hard sell; I did miss the initial launch and perhaps that demoed this crucial piece.
Next up was Ken Zolot, who was a TechStars mentor. He’s an MIT professor, interested in the ecology of entrepeneurship, and specializes in taking products from ‘tech push to market pull’. He mentioned that ta key peice of the ecology for startups is mentors, and not famous ones. Real local mentors who engage with you and help you through your mistakes. Specialized mentors who have rolodexes, specialties in team dynamics and/or market connection expertise can be especially helpful. And Ken doesn’t have a blog!
Then there was a presentation from a representative of the Singapore government IT department, aka IDA (I did not catch his name). He had some difficulties with his presentation, but he called off some great statistics about Singapore. It has 4.5 million people in an area smaller than the San Francisco Bay. Singapore has a national infrastructure plan: Intelligent Nation 2015. They are really good at building infrastructure–they’ve already saturated the entire country with wifi (7500 hotspots) and will have 1GB fiber everywhere by 2012. (They are also replicating the infrastructure throughout Asia.) His presentation wasn’t all that focused, but he was evangelizing Singapore as a hub for tech development, especially for companies that need fat pipes (video, etc). He did tell a funny story about an investigation into a GPS driven bus location system, so that you could know exactly when the next bus will come. He said the proposal was considered, but not funded when further research showed that the buses ran every three minutes anyway! (Shades of the NASA pen urban legend and Nextbus!) He didn’t really address concerns about the government choosing winners (versus the marketplace); I guess with the US financial crisis and China’s rise, the marketplace is out of favor a bit. He did say that the government doesn’t want to run, say, a fiber optic network, so it hands over operations to private concerns; however, the government still apparently has a say in the pricing. All in all, it is pretty impressive that the meetup can draw a foreign representative.
Then Matt from Clixo presented. They are a boutique search engine marketing and conversion firm in Denver. He condensed a one hour presentation into 5 minutes. Matt gave a great example of improving the conversion for a software company. Their focus is on lead generation and basic SEO–they primarily aim at taking companies that have awful websits and making them better by researching and focusing on target audience and measureable outcomes. I think Matt might have missed his aim a bit–I can’t imagine anyone at the BDNT not taking conversion seriously. I talked to one of his coworkers afterwards and pointed them to GWO, which I thought might complement their current offerings nicely.
The iVolunteer folks did something different with their five minutes. They talked about 30 seconds about the concept–networked apps on the phone and elsewhere that make it easy for you to volunteer–and then asked for help from the crowd. Apparently, all the good domain names with anything resembling ‘volunteer’ in them are gone; these folks wanted help with a new name. They wrote down a bunch. Interesting use of a lot of intellectual firepower. And by interesting, I mean I’m not sure if it was wise or not.
And that was all of the June 2009 Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup, Boulder edition. As always, it was a great networking scene, lots of energy and excitement, and good laughs. I will say that the twitterstream made things more interesting; there were at least two funny comments that got everyone laughing up on the screen. I think it would be interesting as a presenter to see the stream (it was behind them) and hae a chance to interact more.
Update June 5, 10:37 am: Via the the CO Startup Tracking Twitter feed, I found that RockyRadar has a nice write up of the June BDNTM. I’ve written about them before, glad to see they’re still going strong.