Handicapping LeWeb Startup Competition: First Impressions

I just did the 5 minute “it’s okay to be an asshole” pass over these companies as I prep for LeWeb and get my blog coverage prepared, and here are my thoughts.  Keep in mind that 5 minutes times 16 companies not chump change, and I’m sure I’ll be diving deeper once I meet with the teams later this week.

Here’s the grading scale

F: does not work

C: feature (needs to be integrated into something larger to achieve distribution and be worth paying for)

B: product (serves a function, but doesn’t have a clear point of monetization and return to investors)

A: company (a product comprised of features serves customers and returns revenues, there is a clear business model if revenues aren’t yet coming in)

1. CloudSplit

Track how much you’re spending on cloud computing with CloudSplit, and receive suggestions on how to reduce cost.  This seems like an interesting tool, but I have to believe that the more important thing to measure is how much you are SAVING after switching to cloud computing over your previous solution.  The person who would actually look at this tool on a daily basis is probably a systems administrator of a small/medium business who is trying to convince management to head into the cloud.  He’s going find that reliability, scalability, and cost savings from the original system are the most pressing concerns.  With so few enterprises in the cloud at this point, optimization seems far off.

First impression: feature

2. FitnessKeeper, Inc.

Looks like the iPhone app is already launched, cool, I’ll check it out.  Polished website, I’m guessing these guys aren’t quite as early stage as some of the others.

First impression: not sure, need to see if app is paid
3. FriendBinder

Seems very similar to FriendFeed.  Tried to use Facebook Connect feature, but it appears to be broken.  I was able to add Twitter and YouTube but all I see in the stream are my own updates- where are my friends?

The site looks somewhat amateur in design, along the lines of a Startup Weekend projects, and their last Twitter update is 11/23 so I wonder if this is actually anyone’s full time dedicated company or just a side project that managed to make it in.

First impression: product

4. Kukunu
This name is already a problem, I typed it in a KunuKunu a few times.  Ah, another travel planning site… can this really be anything unique from the other hundred thousand (at least) services in this space?  Interesting they have an orange favicon in the browser bar and no orange on their site, is this a rebrand of a more mature product?

Looks like social travel planning, guides etc.  This product will be a total community play and I imagine money will have to come from advertising and lead generation.  Done right there is still a lot of money in that since travel is a big ticket item, I requested and invite into the private beta so we’ll see what happens.  Follow them on Twitter too @kukunu

5. Mendeley
Mendeley helps faciliate the organization, sharing, and discovery of research papers.  Cool – this actually falls in the category of “I don’t know another company innovating in this space” and I imagine with the .gov movement towards more open data this fits well, if I wanted to research something like… global warming.

Oh crap, it’s desktop software.  Do not want!

Okay, this still looks pretty cool but I need to do a review of it when I have time… 5 minutes won’t cover a desktop app.

6. Shutl

Cute branding (and on their Twitter page too) and of course I love isite that count their launch date down to the second.

But waht does it do? If I wan’t writing a review there’s no way I’d provide my contact info, but I just did so hopefully that means I will learn more soon.  Oh!  Their Twitter profile actually gives me more info than the website:

Shopping online will never be the same… All Shutl’s announcements will be made here first. Watch this space!”

My guess: social shopping

7. Siteheart Inc.

This redirected to Liqpay and I don’t see any ign of Siteheart Inc… so hopefully I’m on the right website.  Well this is cool, payments via phone – definitely something interesting and a reason to chat with them about Twilio too.  We’ll wait and see if this is the right website

8. Sokoz

The site is in French, but never fear – Google translator is here!  A side note, it might not be a good thing that I can’t figure out what it does based on the images without the translation.  The read button that says “Acheter” (or “buy”) is a hint, but only because I know that word.

Okay cool, the translation is in – this is a service for ecommerce sites to help them sell things?  I will just talk to them in person… too tired, 5 minutes is up

9. Sports Predictions

Redirects to GetInLive.com, so I hope I am on the right website.  This website design is so fresh, and I don’t usually like dark backgrounds… very striking look.  The problem is, now that I’m on the site I don’t know what it is I am supposed to actually DO.  There isn’t a clear goal for the user, and I’m left wondering what I’m even looking at.  Everton vs. Tottenham are 2-2, is that soccer (football) or something else?  It also says “calculating 4,972,973” data points and it looks like it should be ticking over with new data points… what could those possibly be?

10. Storific

This is another in private beta, but their messaging should give you some hints.  This is absolutely a product designed to service business for some kind of in-store experience, their idea of being “Storified”.  I wish I had a retail outfit I could legitimately sign up for their alpha.
I’m pretty interested in theis space, it is pretty bleeding edge and reminds me of the “Future of Retails” meetups I brought together at the Red Mango at Pacific Place back when I will still working on Whrrl.  Curious.

11. Stribe

Now here is something I need, a product that can instantly create a social network on any website.  I like that my first thought was “like Ning… well, not really” because Ning is a seperate walled garden from the other walled garden that is my website.  I just signed up for an account on behalf of Twilio, I would love to give this a test drive.  Cool name too, I am surprised it wasn’t taken.  Looks like this is a widget, not clear if it is a full product offering to solve a business problem or just help solve it… and how to make money?  We will find out.

First impression: Feature
12. Superfeedr

Saw these guys around, at PariSoma in San rancisco and also at the ReadWriteWeb Realtime Summit that was held about a month ago in Silicon Valley.  They are parsing feeds from the realtime web and making them useful for developers.  I’m still trying to figure out how to partner with these guys on a contest for Twilio, what they are doing is cool and I think people will eventually demand this data enough — but is the demand for it there now.

And how repeatable is this?  It seems like this might be an execution play, and there is also TweetHooks out there.  Is this a standalone product, or does it need to be part of some overarching service?  Looks like they are already charge, so good on them for that.

First impression: product

13. task.ly

Managing to-do lists more efficiently, a big bold statement on there about the vision the Google Wave creators had as compared to the task.ly vision.  I love their design, and hope the product will be as simple as it seems to be from their branding/marketing copy (clearly what they are going for).  This is a crowded space, but productivity tools are fun and monetizable.

First impression: Product

14. Tigerlily

Ah a product for marketers, I want to try this one out – it is for making better use of Facebook as a marketing tool through Facebook pages.  Reminds me a bit of Involver.  Very explicit about Facebook fans on these pages being leads, which is sending me the right signals that these guys see it as a business and not just a “make prettier Facebook pages” play.

Ooh they appear to have contest and quiz management, that is smart!  So I tried to set up the free version but something is not working here, Facebook doesn’t seem to want to make selecting Tiegerlily an option… oh well, I’m zonked, I’ll try again tomorrow.
15. The Hyperwords Company

Firefox add on, gotta restart to run it… the basic idea is that it provides resources (dictionary, wikipedia, etc.) for words on your website.  We’ll see… I’m not sure what I think, but there are some glowing quotes on here.

Sounds like the uses go way beyond the dictionary, to include translations, converting metric to standard, etc.  Can’t wait to find out how they want to make money.

First impression: feature
16. Wordy

Pay as you go copy editing! The video on the front page looks slick, but it was having a difficult time buffering.  This is a clever idea, let’s get a quick quote on this blog post so far.  Just a little copy paste here…

Whoa 46.29 Euros and 92 minutes (or ~0.50 Euros per minute)… yikes, that is a bit pricey for me – I don’t even get paid to blog!  This is cool how do I become a copy editor?  How do I make money as a copy editor?  Do they use Amazon Mechanical Turk?  That would be clever.  I’m not sure who is going to pay for this, but I’d love to speak with them… the quote I got was so far from the 0.03 Euros advertised on the front page.  Let’s see what the quote is for “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” That is 0.27 Euros, and will take 1 minute to turn around.

Well it is 3am, time to hit the sheets for a nap and then we’re off to the airport.  Can’t wait to meet all the startups in Paris, and find out if some of my guesses and criticisms were correctly placed.  Au revoir!