Is it possible that a major conference with the sole purpose of launching technology startups could take place in our current economic environment? If it's DEMO, yes, the show had to go on, and the vibe was much more positive than most people would have expected. Held March 1-3 in Palm Desert, California, the semiannual event drew 450 attendees and 39 presenting companies. DEMO is known for launching some of the technology industry's biggest innovators and is now in its 19th year. Each event features a hand-selected crop of companies demonstrating their new products in six-minute live stage demonstrations to an audience of media, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs from around the globe.
DEMO prides itself on finding the diamonds in the rough before anyone else. Over the years, this event has been the site of the first launch of such ventures as Palm, Java, TiVo, and E*TRADE in the mid/late '90s, and, in more recent years, Salesforce.com, VMware, Six Apart, IronPort, GrandCentral, and Glam Media, to name a few. DEMO focuses on real products ready for market, regardless of their geography. Presenting firms hail from many countries, this time including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Taiwan.
For DEMO '09, the startup presentations were organized into several themes: Doing More With Less, Stimulating the Economy, A Greener DEMO, I Love My iPhone, Hard(ware) to Imagine, A Smarter Internet, and Smarter Systems. It was the "Smarter Internet" segment that proved most interesting for content professionals. A rundown on some of the most interesting startups in that group:
• Ensembi (UK) [www.ensembli.com] is a search site that collects and indexes RSS feeds from across the web and continually applies "relevance analysis" to them, using patented personalization algorithms to present with you with your own targeted news or search results. It gets smarter about you the more you use it. Ensembli is all about making search easier for mainstream users, and giving them more relevant recommendations.
• Evri (Seattle,WA) [www.evri.com] presented nothing less than "a way for content to network," connecting that great article you just read with every other relevant piece of content on the web. First launched last year, the company announced "Evri Collections" at DEMO, an innovative new way to search, with individual user accounts that allow searchers deeper visibility on custom-designed topics. A new public API allows developers to apply Evri ontology to any piece of content.
• Primal Fusion (Canada) [www.primalfusion.com] launched its technology for "thought networking," using semantics to connect your ideas (you enter what you are "thinking about") and help you collect these thoughts without getting mired in a glut of information. Your thought networks then become powerful assets for building, organizing, and expressing your knowledge. As machine-readable data, they're transformed into documents, web sites, or RSS feeds.
• Qubes (Taiwan) [www.qubes.cc] introduced its new "Gagapost" content-based social network [www.gagapost.com]. Bloggers create posts and then enable groups of friends to collaborate on, contribute to, and even co-own the post. Who needs another blogging platform, you may ask, but DEMO thought this one worthy of consideration because of its tight integration of community and content. Each post becomes the center point of the social network and, as DEMO stated in its description, "content becomes the connective tissue."
• Xmarks (San Francisco) [www.xmarks.com] is a Mitch Kapor-founded company, which just relaunched under a new name. (It was previously called FoxMarks.) With a corpus of 600 million bookmarks, and almost 10 million downloads of its Firefox add-on, it has now developed a recommendation system it calls "Suggested Sites," presenting users with relevant, vetted, and timely results. Add-ons are coming soon for the IE and Safari browsers.
DEMO '09 was broadcast live, attracting a global audience of more than 200,000 views over two days. The technology used, BG HD Live, was from a DEMO presenter, BitGravity. The streamed broadcast (which had a four-second delay) featured Facebook's Live Feed technology, allowing those viewing the stream online to share and view Facebook status updates about the event in real time.