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February 03, 2012

StartupCamp5 - 'And the Winner is'

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

As the name implies, this was the fifth StartUpCamp to be held as part of ITEXPO (News - Alert), and it just seems to improve with age. With no slight to previous presenters, many who have gone onto success after making connections as a result of their participation in the event, emcee Larry Lisser (News - Alert) of EMBRACE and his panel of tough industry judges put four early-stage start-ups through their paces. 

For those unfamiliar, the format is simple and in some ways diabolical. Presenters get 5 minutes to make their pitch. (This is a real-time version in many ways of the popular TV show Shark Tank). They then must face a short round of questioning from a panel of start-up pros who grill them about all aspects of their presentation. Such things as who are your customers, run rates, what do you need the money for, addressable market, go-to-market strategies, validity of technical concept, are all fair game. The audience, in this case well over 600 industry experts in their own right get a chance to ask a few questions. And, then the fun part. When everyone is done presenting, the audience votes (courtesy of sponsor Cbeyond (News - Alert)) via text (think American Idol) and in less than five minutes a winner is declared.

The entries

Here is a fast run-down of who the four finalists were and what their pitch was.

Call Trunk: Cloud-based call recording with search. Stated that it was looking to tap a market where a variety of not just businesses but consumers need to be able to capture, store and easily retrieve conversations for reasons ranging from compliance to grandpa remembering his prescriptions when he spoke to the pharmacist. 

Townhall140: A project being developed by under-grads at Harvard with some institutional - and friends of the institution - help -so people can become more engaged with the political process. A cloud-based Virtual multi-user video chat, that enables anyone with a web cam and an opinion to interact with influencers and vote on their likes and dislikes including the opinions of their peers. Think of this as immerse democracy online, or the old town hall meeting goes 21st century. The shorthand is tech for civil engagement. 

Vernoa: A hardware -based solution for mobile carriers to be able to offer smartphone users a network dashboard. Aimed at the problem of helping stop congestion. Think of this as load-shedding over the smart grid only for mobile services. The idea is that a combination of user view of real-time usage and carrier pushed incentives can change user behavior and thus help ease network congestion. Described as (News - Alert) for lawyers, but actually running on Amazon’s platform. This is a cloud-based service built by lawyers for lawyers that marries all of their back office operations, including billing and document management, and puts them in the cloud for easy access and integration. Target (News - Alert) market is not just the 2.2m lawyers of whom 65 percent work in firms of 10 lawyers or less, but potentially the 1.3 million accountants and consultants who also have to manage lots of documents and bill by hourly increments and could save money by letting the cloud do the hard work for them while they instead focus on expanding their own IT and back office operations. by a nose

As the moderator noted, and all of the judges agreed, the quality of the ideas and presentations were extremely well-thought out and expertly presented. In a very close vote that, because it was in real-time, was fascinating to watch as the tallies grew - just beat out TownHall140. It was a vote that had people rooting, and the decision was popular. In fact, in the end there were no real losers since each company got a considerable amount of support from the audience. CEO Oliver Taillieau, spoke with me after his big win, and could not contain his smile. “To say that I am thrilled and delighted to have been the winner in front of such a prestigious audience, especially after having our story well-tested, would be an understatement,” he said. 

Thank you to everyone who entered to be in StartUpCamp5, our sponsors, and to the crowd who made this once again a session to remember. And please be sure to check out for yourself to see what the buzz was about.

See you at StartUpCamp6 at ITEXPO West in Austin, Texas, October 2-4.

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest and best known brands, and has served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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