I had a chance this week to attend the YCombinator Demo Day in Mountain View, CA. This is a great event, or rather series of events, where twice annually a group of start ups are invited to participate in a three month incubation program. The start ups receive coaching, a place to work and a $20k to $30k investment. At the end of the program, there is a Demo Day where the start ups do 4 minute presentations to a room full of investors.
What Paul Graham, YCombinator's founder, has done and is doing with YCombinator is tremendous example of doing well by doing good. He introduced the companies with the caveat that they weren't great presenters as their focus is great product. The presenters were clearly well coached and their development to a consistent level of professionalism wasn't accidental. And I thought they did a great job telling their story in a limited format. The investor turnout was impressive as most of the Sand Hill Road VC's as well as key angel investors were present.
Of the approximately 2 dozen companies, six preferred that no one write about them now, so I won't do so. Of the remainder, there were some interesting companies.
These are in random order. They are all by nature early stage with great prospects but lots to prove out.
Software tools to enable retailers to leverage social media to drive traffic and sales. We know from a myriad of sources that certain individuals within the social graph are influence-rs. These people are thought leaders and do an out sized job influencing their friends and associates as a result. This company's product goes beyond simply causing individuals to refer friends, it identifies the influence-rs, measures their impact and seeks to leverage them by enabling aggressive marketing to these key audience members. Simply, if you cause others to buy, you will be rewarded.
This company enables people to find and buy data online. If you're a consumer of data from time to time, you know that the results from a Google search tend to be worthless or expensive. Worthless because it isn't recent or applicable or expensive because what you want is locked up in a series of $3k reports which are outside your need and way outside your budget. This paid information exchange allows buyers and sellers to find each other. Imagine your need a question answered like "How many heavy duty truck retailers are in North America by state or province?" You post your question and after some period of time (variable of course but probably 24 hours once the site has some uptake), you receive a response which is a price for your answer. Think, $100 or $200 or some other palatable amount.
The world's color authority which is now reaching over 1M unique visitors a month. Great idea, wonderful execution and well on there way. People react to color and this community enables product marketers to assess and determine colors for favorable response.
A search engine for all your data in the cloud. It indexes Facebook, Twitter, gmail, etc. to enable users to find items across all non-local data sources.
While not represented by the aforementioned companies, there were interesting ideas presented around video on the web. And it is clear, that the volume and importance of video on the Internet is growing geometrically.
First rate event and an excellent execution of a critical process. Absolutely worth the red-eye return flight.