Last week's Startup Camp in Mountain View provided an opportunity for startup show-and-tell. From paper sketches to profitable businesses with product demos, here are just a few of the folks that were talking up their ideas:
- EchoSign provides a contract signature system that supports both handwritten and electronic documents. Released in March, the service already has over 17,000 paying users. EchoSign works like regular Web mail - you send a document to the signatory, who then returns either an electronic signature or a fax back of a handwritten signature. The best part is that users can set automatic reminders to the signatories, nagging them again and again to return the signature. Something for legal and HR departments to love! Customers are businesses of any size, from small construction contractors to Cisco, primarily by sales staff. (There is integration with salesforce.com.) The company's biggest customer has over 5,000 contracts signed. It's $19.95/month/sender for unlimited transactions, and $12.95/month to archive. You can try the service for free for up to 20 documents. These guys are on the more mature end of the startup scale, given $2M invested by Storm Ventures and the beginning of real revenue. I would use this service myself, it appears well-designed and, having run small contract businesses, I'd be delighted to save the headache of chasing people for signatures.
- Mojeo is an "I'm here" button for your phone or laptop that shows people what is going on around them. When you click the button, your mobile device will send your location and interests off to a host of web sites, and then return local results to you. Behind the scenes, you are skipping the location and interest form that gets requested in one format or another by multiple mobile sites. Mojeo preferences and dynamic location awareness inform the browsing experience without users having to download an applet onto the phone, though they probably need an Internet service plan. The two-man team is just 3 weeks into development and eating ramen, but you can check out their prototype.
More worth noticing
- AppStart. President David Reed and his partner had great energy and attitude, and I was immediately drawn to their focus on "incredibly unsexy industries." AppStart sells a suite of integratable point solutions to small, locally focused, labor-intensive businesses such as storm shutter builders and plumbers. These applications tend to provide ROI on immediate needs, such as reducing time and materials waste for customers by delivering plan diagrams that are both more efficiently designed and much faster to draw up. All applications are Web-based and sold via subscription, but Reed knows that isn't what's important: "Customers don't want to buy what you're selling. They don't care about technology. They want to wake up to find that their problems are taken care of." AppStart's growth has been bootstrapped from revenue to date, and they came to Startup Camp to find partners that can help them to increase traction.
- Geogad is developing personal mobile tour guides designed for MP3 players, mobile phones, and other audio-capable devices. The company's Web site went up about four months ago with a downloadable tour of San Francisco's Union Square, and they are now developing partners that can provide expert content into the tours. The technology has many ripe possibilities: dynamic tours (show me a tour based on Victorian homes rather than a generic SF tour) and community-generated tours (user-generated map content from Platial or others) came first to mind. (Disclosure note: Omidyar Network is an investor in Platial.) I found the idea of a consistent, yet personalized tour experience intriguing - the ability to imbue a consistent travel experience with local flavor is a key success factor for global travel brands. Founder Georgi Dagnall is a technologist, and she came to Startup Camp looking for a marketing-savvy partner. I'm hoping she finds one, since the idea has promise.
is a community-powered decision engine that helps individuals make
research-based decisions. In the paper demo, this looked like a
community knowledge base with an automatically generated FAQ. Choosing
decision factors was like checking off categories to filter on in Zagat., since myDecide is trying to provide more structure around decisions than one can get at Yahoo! Answers.
The company's model is free to consumers, with vendors paying per lead.
The team of 4 (not including many contractors) is bootstrapped to date.
They'll launch a private beta
in the next couple of weeks, and the service should become publicly
available in January 2007.
- YouSendIt is an end-to-end solution for sending files, positioned as an alternative to FTP and e-mail attachments. Users upload a file to the YouSendIt server over standard https, then e-mail access permission to whomever they want to see the file. Those sharing files can see when files were sent, when they were downloaded, and by who. The service can also be embedded into an existing web site, which would be useful for project collaboration. The company targets small and medium business customers with a subscription-based revenue model. There is a freebie level to get started with before adding more professional levels of service. The company is close to profitability, so clearly I'm not the only one who finds moving big files annoying.
Though the sample here is limited - I was only able to check in with about 20 of the 'startup stations' on display - it is representative of the technology-based ideas that the attendees were focused on. e.g., I didn't meet anyone with a franchise idea for meat on a stick. In the future, it would be interesting to see more cross-fertilization from sectors, perhaps among wildly different types of consumer services or small business products.