I recently attended Twiistup 5 in Santa Monica on February 12th and was hoping to meet other digital media folks in SoCal as well as check out some cool, new companies who were demo’ing their sites/products. It was held in an empty airplane hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, which added to the coolness factor of walking into a giant hangar filled with people & booze as though it were a club. There were also free drinks, food, and cigars so who was I to argue?
In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the companies and people I met.
eHow was there demo’ing their site and soliciting for users to join their community (and likely, ideally provide new content) by offering up an iPod nano and cash. Their tag line is “How To Do Just About Everything” and appears to be somewhat in competition with sites like About.com, VideoJug, WonderHowTo, Expert Village and to a lesser extent Wikipedia. eHow offers users articles and videos on how to do just about anything, but also provide users the ability to add their own How-To content and receive cash payments via an ad revenue sharing system. Given the glut of others in this space, I’d give eHow a “meh” out of “awesome!”.
Cougar PoS provide the hardware and software needed for a restaurant to manage its point-of-sales operations. I’m not current on other PoS companies (go ahead and google if you’re interested), but these guys seemed to be headed in the right direction. They manage all their PoS software updates via the web and also handle most customer support via the web as well. They have modules for Menu Management (displayed online & in PoS system), Labor Management (planning staffs shifts), Online Orders and Reservations (apparently handled online, but would be cool if its integrated with sites like Delivery.com / SeamlessWeb and OpenTable), Remote Administration (updating any other module remotely via the web, would be cool to have a related iPhone app as well), and Robust Reporting & Analytics (Sales reports based on menu item, employee, bar item, etc). I will say that the free Molson beer helped peak my interest, but the company appeared to be somewhat sloppy/unprofessional in their approach and appearance. That said, I still think this model makes sense, its more of the SaaS architecture that Google is making famous with their Google Apps products. I’ll give them a score of “neat” out of “awesome!”.
Cuban Rollers had a setup outside the hangar and were handing out free cigars that were pre-rolled by their staff. If you had the patience, they would even roll a cigar for you in-person using one of their trained staff members. I grabbed a few cigars to try out and actually just tested one the other week for my birthday. It had a surprisingly even taste, not too harsh not too light, and even burned unbelievably well. I’ve got a few more that I’ll take with me on my next trip to Phoenix to celebrate the birth of my nephew, Jaxson Hunter Beal. Cigar Rollers have groups across the US who can come to your event and roll cigars for you; I’m thinking this would work great for anyone having a annual BBQ, graduation event, or other large ceremonial gathering. I give them a “sweet!” out of “awesome!”.
Yammer is one of those tech companies that’s hovering just below the horizon and has the capability to explode into the mainstream or shrivel to nothingness only to be bought by AOL. They amount to a private label, SaaS, Twitter/chat/project tracking system. They claim to have several companies using their service heavily (eg., Mahalo, Rubicon Project, Ad:Tech, Cisco, Xerox) and provide Desktop, iPhone and Blackberry clients. The site will be familiar to the Twitterati, but the big issue here is the chicken/egg scenario for companies. The tool is most useful when many people from a company/department/project team are using it, but until you reach that critical mass its almost useless and a drag on productivity. Regardless, there’s opportunity there but merging the product with something like Basecamp would provide for a great toolset. That said, I’d give Yammer a ranking of “cool idea” out of “awesome!”.
Next up is runtriz, an iPhone-based product that allows guests to quickly & easily order hotel services, amenities and more anytime/anywhere. It provides a basic menu of options (similar to the binder usually prevalent in hotel rooms) listing all services the hotel provides as well as recommended local purveyors. The product promises the ability to upsell in-room items and hotel services plus generate revenue from local attractions paying for special placement on your device. Hotel guests can add the software to their existing iPhones, but the hotel can easily loan one out and if lost charge for the device plus a slight markup to cover administration. The idea is rather interesting and adds a touch of the hip & cool factor to a hotel room, but unless they have a large supply of backup devices I’d be afraid that people would regularly steal and/or break the devices. Who knows, maybe they’ve worked up a special pricing deal with Apple for purchasing/support. Regardless the product is slickly designed and replicates the 20th century binder concept into a 21st century device. That in mind, I give runtriz a “badass!” out of “awesome!”.
Note, my ranking scale ranges from “retch” to “awesome!” with many stops in between. No concrete & defined spectrum of all rankings currently exists, but I think you’ll get my general point in the individual rankings mentioned for various companies.