DEMO Spring 2011 Highlights: The Top 3 Consumer Focused Companies and the Best One-Liner

This year it was very appropriate to be at DEMO Spring 2011 in Palm Springs on the day after the Oscars.  Like a Colin Firth many a nervous startup founder came on stage to make their presentations. Perhaps it was the lights and the large audience. Or maybe it was the $1 million dollar prize. Here’s a run-down of my picks for the best companies in the Consumer Technology category of DEMO Spring 2011:

Best One-Liner

Some jokes are still funny even though you’ve heard them before. Same can be said of the one-liner dropped by Shamus Husheer, CEO of DuoFertility, who delivered the humdinger:

“My name is Shamus, and my job is to get millions of women pregnant.”

While the line is still brilliant we previously covered Shamus, who was here as one of Qualcomm’s QPRize Finalists, and DuoFertility during last year’s CES otherwise they may have made the list.

Manilla

Bill pay systems are not sexy. And that’s part of the problem. The ones I’ve tried have poor UI’s and only solve one half of the problem. While they allow me to pay bills online they don’t help me stop all the clutter that comes with mailed bill notices.  This is where Manilla comes in. Owned in full by the Hearst Corporation, Manilla eliminates the physical bill that comes in the mail from any company they process payments for. This is key because it completes the loop for consumers.

According to George Kliavkoff, Hearst digital executive and interim CEO of Manilla, Hearst sends some 500 million pieces of transactional mail a year — bills and renewal notices. And that’s just from one company. Think what companies like American Express or Comcast generate,

Furthermore, Manilla displays for the consumer the entire bill in a manner they are used to seeing and allows the option to print or store a copy in a file system. What’s more, the UI is easily the slickest I have seen of any such provider.

Manilla does have some limitations. While they currently work with a wide array high profile companies, mainly through Hearst’s drawing power, their list of clientele is  not all inclusive. So the question is will they have enough provider partnerships to make using their services worthwhile.

But access is not the largest problem. Security and trust is. Hearst is obviously a long established and trusted company but whether consumers will feel comfortable enough to hand over their personal and account data will define their success.   With Manilla looking to essentially be the PayPal of the space one breach is enough to ruin everything.

PhotoRocket

Photos are the big connector between new generation technology users and the pre-internet generation users. Because of photos I see folks like my parents actually wanting to go on the internet in order to see and perhaps share some pics. But due to issues like resizing the sharing process is not smooth and to complicate things further it’s fragmented through the various social networks and platforms out there. This is a space where a lot of companies have tried to  step up but with PhotoRocket the thought and ease that has gone into the sharing UI is far superior then any I have seen.

Recognizing that building out a photo community in a space filled with the likes of Snapfish, Flickr, and the largest photo aggregator of all Facebook, would require a new level of function PhotoRocket focused on utility and it shows. As Scott Lipsky, Founder of PhotoRocket explains, “There are many little widgets and tools that you can use to put photos in one place or one other place. With PhotoRocket, you can put your photos anywhere. We think that’s a very important point and we think it’s disruptive.” The utility allows users to push out photos without attaching or worrying about file size limits/rendering,  to various social networks and email with a single button click. But what’s extra cool is the recipients can then, via the utility, take the photos they just received and automatically pull them in to the utility to further share them.

While the utility is slick the key question is under their current revenue model, can PhotoRocket make enough of a dent in the market upselling products that photos can be printed on to be a sustainable business model? Time will tell, but with Lipsky coming from the trenches as Co-Founder of  aQuantive there definitely seems to be more than one trick up his sleeve.

SocialEyes

Speaking of good pedigrees, if you are a startup in the video space it is hard to boast a better co-founder than Rob Glasser, former CEO and Founder of RealNetworks. SocialEyes essentially creates a video based chat room in which each participant appears in the interface in a format familiar to anyone who has used Skype. But unlike Skype, SocialEye taps into the user’s social network (via a widget on Facebook) and allows them to host a chat session for work or for a remote tabletop roleplaying game. It also supports far more conversations than Skype, allowing the user to talk to multiple people at once or directly address certain people in the “chat room” while muting the others.

While the UI of the multi-chat video experience is well conceived their actual website is a bit odd, especially how it loads. They also need to reconcile a bit of a brand awareness issue since there is a company called SocialEye based out of Massachusetts that does analytics.

Arguably though, their biggest hurdle will be to appear as more than just an additional feature set that Skype hasn’t built yet.

Look for the wrap-up of DEMO highlights tomorrow.

About Angel Djambazov

Born in Bulgaria, Angel Djambazov has spent his professional career in the fields of journalism and online marketing. In his journalistic career he worked as an editor on several newspapers and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Wyoming Homes and Living Magazine. Later his career path led to online marketing where while working at OnlineShoes he earned the Affiliate Manager of the Year (2006) award at the Affiliate Summit, and In-house Manager of the Year (2006) award by ABestWeb.

For four years Angel served as OPM for Jones Soda for which he won his second Affiliate Manger of the Year (2009) award at Affiliate Summit.

Currently Angel serves as OPM for KEEN Footwear and MedicalRecords.com. His former clients include: Dell, Real Networks, Jones Soda, Intelius, Graphicly, Chrome Bags, Onlineshoes.com, Vitamin Angels, The Safecig, and Bag Borrow or Steal.

Angel is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher for ReveNews.com and ReveNews.org.

Angel lives north of Seattle, spending his free time reading up on obscure scientific references made by his wife MGX, while keeping up with a horde of cats and a library of books.

You can find Angel on Twitter @djambazov.

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