I was fortunate enough to attend the Techonomy event this week in Tel Aviv, and I have to say, it was one of the best tech and networking events I have ever attended. The attendees included everyone from Yossi Vardi to pretty much the entire Israeli Twitter community. The startups that presented all had very innovative concepts and the presenters were all very passionate and excited about their product.
I thought I would give a short overview of the different startups for those that could not make the event. Before I do that, I just want to mention one of the highlights of the event. They had a big screen in the front of the room with a Twitter stream of all the tweets that included the #techonomy hashtag, which updated in real time (almost anyway). Anyone who was not attending was sure to see the flow of tweets regarding the conference, which quickly became a trend on the global Twitter. It did take away some attention from the presenters, but the organizers quickly realized this, and disabled the screen during the presentation.
The event was very professional, well-done, and highly enjoyable to all its participants, although the food could’ve been better. Once again, like many times over the past few months, I am finding it very challenging to blog about the event, as we all pretty much said everything we needed to say, in the form of tweets. Then I remind myself that not everyone is on Twitter, yet!
So here is the list of the startups that presented:
Sense of Fashion: I have to admit up front that this startup did not speak to me personally, not because it was not a cool concept, but rather because fashion is not my thing. Anyway, their offering is a social network for fashion enthusiasts, to pretty much sum it up in one sentence. They have some cool concepts like asking friends their opinion on something you are trying on in the dressing room via the Web, and some others.
Vetrina’s: Once again, fashion, not my thing, but this company definitely impressed me more than the first. The concept is to go window shopping anywhere in the world, from the comfort of your own home. The service enables its users to upload real time picture of shop windows from all around the world. A user can then view the various windows according to location or clothing type. Seems pretty cool to me, although correct me if I’m wrong, but that apostrophe in their name does not belong.
Hoody: This company presented a pretty cool and innovative idea to have a location-based social network. It basically gives you all the information from your surrounding area and lets you know what’s going on around you. If implemented well, this could take off. I figure I will let the video do the explaining.
Hoody – meet your neighbors from Hoody on Vimeo.
Tracx: If I am being honest, I have to say that out of the 6 companies, I connected with this one the least. I think in today’s world, there are really two things that matter when it comes to making a successful company in any industry. The service/web site/app should be pleasant on the eyes and appealing to its users, and the user experience has to be top notch. In my book Tracx failed on both counts. My first exposure to them was via their logo, which in my opinion, is painful to look at. However, the logo is just a sign of what comes next. Their service, as useful as it might be, is the opposite of user friendly. You are presented with charts displaying social information about your friends, and just looking at them gave me a headache. So, in my book, Tracx has a lot of work ahead of them, if they want to get anywhere. If you ask me, they can start with their logo.
Grazeit: This company comes to solve a problem that is close to my heart. How to distribute your content on the Web without becoming a Twitter or Facebook spammer. So, the concept is a good one, we need a solution to this problem. I am not convinced their solution will be the one. From what I gathered both the person who is distributing the content and the person who will eventually be reading the content need to install the GrazeIT application, which by the way comes in the form of a Firefox add-on. Both those factors raise red flags to me. So, once again, in theory, the concept is a good one, how well they will do, depends on their implementation. No question, they will face (no pun intended about the next startup) a lot of challenges.
Face: Let me start off by saying this was mine and the rest of the crowd’s favorite startup of the day. So many different reasons for that. The presenter spoke the best English, it was the most laid back and natural presentation out of the 6. In addition, he presented some really cool stats about the technology on which their application is based. Before I mention details, let me tell you what Face does. They engineered a highly advanced face recognition technology that enables you to find more pictures of friends and relatives on Facebook. I have to try out the application some more before I fully understand it, I cannot say it is the most user-friendly service I have ever used. What was cool about it was that their search engine managed to identify someones child because their facial features were so similar. That shows some serious potential in my opinion. I can go on for a long time about this technology, but no words can really emphasize how cool it was when the presenter displayed their technology in action. It showed us all how fast it works and what its true potential really is.
Of course, I cannot talk about Techonomy 2009 without mentioning Sarah Lacy. She ended off the event with Q&A from the crowd, and had some pretty smart things to say about the Israeli tech scene. At least for me, she made up for last week’s Israel bashing, and then she topped it off with an awesome article on how great Israel really is, even beyond the tech scene. She was very impressive!
Another star of the show was the famous Jeff Pulver. The theme surrounding Jeff was just how insanely popular he is across the various social platforms. All I can say is, if there was ever anyone that deserved fame, it is Jeff. He has got to be the nicest guy in tech. I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of his time, and the guy is just so modest and real, you just wanna hug him. He was also the only one on the panel trying very hard to stay positive when it came to giving the startups their feedback. This is actually something Yossi Vardi emphasized throughout the event. It is important to treat the presenters with respect, and not crush them with questions about their business plans and future strategies. I am not saying these are not important questions, they just need to be presented in a sensitive way, and Jeff did it perfectly. The only bad thing I have to say about Jeff is he has not yet accepted my Facebook invitation. But even that is not his fault. Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit, oh well. Anyway, he really added to the event.
Finally, last but not least, I got to meet a lotta really amazing people at Techonomy, but one of the highlights was of course meeting the person who really deserves all the credit for the show. I am talking about the famous Orli Yakuel of GO2WEB20. I did not get a lotta time with her, as you can imagine, she was pretty busy, but she really gets major props for arranging and overseeing such a professional event with so many important people.
The overall feeling most people got from the event, judging from the feedback I have read so far is that the presenters were all very professional and passionate about their product. The big disappointment was the lack of attention given to the whole economy aspect. After all, Techonomy, the name of the conference is a combination of the words technology and economy. So, a little more attention to business plans would have been appreciated. However, the presenter for Face, when asked about their business plan, had the best answer of the day. He said, if their technology is used to find Bin Laden, the reward itself could be their business plan. Great answer and excellent event!