Archive for September, 2008

Another year, another batch of email companies

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

I’ve written a bunch in the past about email innovation and what’s coming (or needs to come) next.  Problems and opportunities around email have received a lot of attention over the past year, and along with that attention has come a new crop of startups with their own take on things.  Here are a few that have recently been announced:

Gist "[connects] your inbox to the web" allowing you to "get business-critical information about key people and companies."  They sound like a more ambitious version of Xobni – both companies pull together email and other information about each of your contacts.  If Gist is successful in combining email search with web search to provide one-stop shopping for information on people and companies, it will prove to be a very useful tool.

OtherInbox is "a free email account that automatically organizes newsletters, social
networking updates, coupons and receipts from online purchases."  We’ve focused on this area a bit with ClearContext Notification Managers with a focus on "bacn" type email.  What OtherInbox really reminds me of, though, is a very focused implementation of whitelist and challenge/response systems like Boxbe and BlueBottle.  However, by focusing on one very narrow problem area, OtherInbox is able to use a very simple organizational approach. Their big challenge is obvious – getting people to sign up for yet another email account when most people have at least one webmail account in addition to a work account, while webmail providers continue to improve their spam/bacn management capabilities.

PostBox is trying something very ambitious – a whole new email client.  I’m sure PostBox has a lot more planned, but right now it seems a little underwhelming from the preview screenshots and descriptions.  Not a whole lot we haven’t seen already from existing clients and plugins.  A key feature of theirs is an attachment viewer that looks similar to what Xoopit does for GMail and we do in the ClearContext Attachment Explorer.  They also talk about web integration and organization around topics, things that Zenbe is trying to tackle with a new webmail platform.

So, a lot of evolutionary here, and not so much revolutionary.  Of this new batch of companies, I’m probably most interested in seeing what Gist does.  If they can succesfully create an automated filtrbox type service driven from my email, it’s definitely something that will be quite useful to me.

For discussion on more revolutionary approaches, come join us at the Fixing Foundational Information Channels session at Defrag (code dh1 gets you a reg discount btw).  And check out ClearContext later this week for our own take on where email is headed!

TechCrunch vs DEMO – by the numbers

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Edit: Updated status for Metaplace, Orgoo, and VUVOX based on comments. Numbers updated based on that, but analysis wasn’t really impacted (though there may well be more updates coming). Updated CircleUp status.

I’ve been mostly ignoring all the TechCrunch50 vs DEMO 2008 back and forth as they battle it out for the title of best startup launch conference.  However, Scoble’s post where he talked about his impressions of how they match up got me thinking.  Since I’m an info and analysis junkie, I decided to spend a couple of hours the last two evenings to put together a quick, as objective as possible, shootout between the two to see how good they really are at selecting the best startups and acting as a launchpad for them.

Here’s how I did it.  I grabbed the list of companies from TechCrunch40 and Demo2007. I then clicked onto the homepage and looked for a news/about section.  If I didn’t know anything about the startup I did a quick Google web and news search as well.  Based on that, I ranked each one as follows:

0 – Dead
1 – Inactive (no news/updates for 6+ months, no evidence of any traction)
2 – Active (working away, making progress)
3 – Successful (lots of positive activity, major funding/customer/press/buzz/etc)
4 – Killing It! (dominant market position, major revenues, big exit, etc)

(Note: I spent about 1 minute per company on this, so there will almost certainly be some mistakes here, feel free to comment/correct – I did this just to satisfy my own curiosity, not to make any sort of definitive analysis)

So, how do they stack up?  First, the numbers:

Demo 2007:

Average: 1.9

TechCrunch 40:

Average 2.2

Now, the analysis.  Overall, they don’t look hugely different in outcome and the numbers on the edges are still pretty small, but the edge definitely goes to TechCrunch.  Not surprisingly, the most common status of startups from both conferences a year later is that they are plugging away, building their businesses.  But in this small sample, the failure rate of Demo companies is significantly higher.  Most importantly, about a third of the TC companies have hit some major success milestones as compared to less than 20% of their Demo counterparts.   

So, if you’re a startup, based on last year’s results TC really does look like the better launchpad.  And if you’re a journalist, investor, dealmaker, jobseeker or whoever else interested in the startup world and looking for the next big thing, your chance of picking a winner looks to be higher at TechCrunch.

Here are the buckets I put companies into, obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but 90+% of my decision was made based on the info on their own websites (please note any errors due to name changes, stealth mode, etc in the comments):

TechCrunch 40
0: GotStatus
1: app2you, Cognitive Code, CrowdSpirit, Loudtalks, Metaplace (Areae), Orgoo, Teach The People, Wixi, XTR3D (Extreme Reality)
2: 8020 Publishing, BeFunky, BroadClip, CastTV, Ceedo, Cubic Telecom, DocStoc, FAROO, Kerpoof, mEgo, Metaplace, MusicShake, Orgoo, Ponoko, Spottt (AdBrite), Story Blender (Enfra Networks), Trutap, Viewdle, Yap (a couple of those arguably 3)
3: Cake Financial, Clickable, Flock, FlowPlay, Kaltura (DemoPit WildCard), PubMatic, TripIt, WooMe, Xobni, Zivity, ZocDoc (a couple like TripIt, Xobni arguably 4)
4: Mint, Powerset

Demo 2007

excluded due to stage of company: Adobe Systems, Inc., Aggregate Knowledge, Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, blinkx, Inc., Boston-Power, Inc., ClipSyndicate, a service of Critical Mention, Devicescape Software, Inc., Seagate Technology, SupportSoft, Inc., Symantec Corp., Wyse Technology, Inc., ZoomInfo
0: BUZ Interactive, Mobio Networks, Reveal Technology, Inc., TeleFlip, Inc.
1: Brevient Technologies, Inc., CircleUp, Inc., DARTdevices Corp., DesignIn, Inc., GoWare, Inc., Honeypitch, Inilex, Inc., iqzone, inc., Iwerx, LLC., My Currency Co., Nuvoiz, Inc., OurStory, PairUp, Inc., VUVOX Network, Inc., Yodio, Inc.
2: 6th Sense Analytics, Inc., Attendio, Inc., Bling Software, Inc., Boorah, Inc., Ceelox, Inc., CircleUp, eJamming, Inc., Eyejot, Inc., Helium, Inc, ink2 Corporation, Integrien Corp.,,, Mission Research, Mixpo Portfolio Broadcasting, Inc.,, Preclick Corp., QTech, Inc., SharedBook, Inc.,, SOASTA, Inc., SplashCast, Inc., TextDigger, Inc., ThePort Network, Inc., Total Immersion, Trailfire, Inc., Triumfant, Inc., WHISHER.COM
3:, Inc., Kauffman Innovation Network, Inc., Me.dium, Inc., Nextumi, SailPoint Technologies, Inc., Serendipity Technologies, Inc., Vringo, Inc., ZINK Imaging, LLC.
4: Nexo Systems, Inc., VUVOX, Zoho / AdventNet, Inc.(Nexo and VUVOX were both relatively small deals, but hey, I’m an entrepreneur too, so I’ll be optimistic about these exits!)