Demo 2012: Looking for the Next Google, Facebook or Apple
Demo was amazing again this year. One thing I particularly liked was that several tools addressed problems I had. Did I find the next big success story? No -- but those occur so seldom. I do think I found a bunch of people who are passionate about technology and making the world a better place, and those are my kind of people.
04/23/12 5:00 AM PT
Demo is a fascinating show. What you see is a string of companies that each have six minutes to pitch their products to an audience of media, investors, other companies (who might buy them), and peers.
My initial thought is that my friend Carmine Gallo, who wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and teaches people how to present, could make a living helping these folks present properly.
What was also interesting was that there was a series of university projects presented in 90 seconds and several of the kids did a better job with less time than many of the CEOs did. One thing was clear, and that is that it was unlikely a hardware company like Apple could come out of Demo -- at least not in the U.S. Manufacturing has moved overseas. Still, there were some dreamers and some amazing dreams -- I'll cover a few this week.
I'll end with my product of the week...
If you've been reading my columns for a while, you know I'm pretty frustrated with U.S. politics -- and I think the problem may be us, because we can't seem to find the time to support or vote for more-qualified, or at least more-honest, people.
In fact, we seem to allow folks to reach office who largely win by lying more successfully about their own backgrounds and those of their challengers. No wonder we have so many scandals and can't seem to balance budgets.
What if we turned politics into a game -- if we spent as much time looking at the folks who keep us alive and protect our families as we do rich football players who have comparatively little impact on our lives? That is the idea underlying Fantasy Politics, which uses the Fantasy Football team model to make politics more interesting.
You pick teams that contain a variety of players -- from active to past politicians, from reporters to pundits -- and your team is then evaluated against a number of political performance measurements. The results are then sold back to the campaigns, and there is a premium level with enhancements that folks might pay for.
In this I see the potential for something amazing: an engaged populace that gives a crap about electing quality people to run the country.
EyesOnDemand: More Freedom, Less Fear
This is one of the ideas from a university team, and it is one of those ideas that just seems brilliant in a "why didn't I think of that?" way. EyesOnDemand is designed for someone who is vision- impaired. What it does is link your smartphone camera to a friend or family member who can be your eyes on demand.
They can look at the bill for you to make sure you aren't overcharged. If you are lost, they can see what is around you and help you find your way to safety. While they can't drive for you (thank god), it is a way for a someone who can't see well to live more normally and safer, and enjoy more freedom with less fear.
Sometimes it is the little ideas that can make a huge difference, and this one touched my heart.
Often, we see kids coming out of school who want to be like the Google guys -- with money and big planes and a business plan that consists of supplying our private information to advertisers for a fee they don't share. That kind of thing just makes me sad.
In this instance, we have a bunch of kids who want to make the world a better place -- and, for a moment, it once again gives me hope for the future.
TiltWorld: Clean Up
TiltWorld is another gaming platform for social games. The theme of the initial game is to clean up the world -- what makes it different is that game credit cqn be turned in to actually make the world greener.
Accomplishments are tied to planting trees in blighted areas around the world. The game is addictive -- somewhat similar to the "Angry Birds" type -- and you use the phone or tablet as the controller, tilting it to play.
This is another very young company that is focusing some of its efforts on helping to improve the world we live in.
Dozuki: Better Instructions
One of my personal favorites at Demo is Dozuki, which is a website that helps folks create great online manuals. I'm in the process of working on an older Jag, and I live in the Jaguar Forum where members share their experiences. Some are good at this -- most not so much. It just isn't a skill set people acquire generally.
This tends to make my projects harder than they otherwise might be, and even the worst in the forum are often better than the instructions I get from companies overseas. Dozuki, which is based on the iFixIt engine, helps folks build great manuals. If more individuals and companies used this tool, folks like me would likely be much happier.
ShowOff.com: Envision and Estimate
As some of you know I'm building a house in Belize. One of the problems in building or remodeling a home is getting a sense for how the home will look when the modification is done -- before you do it.
Yes, you can pay someone to use one of the advanced home rendering tools that allow you to walk through the virtual home, but that can costs thousands. Also, you don't automatically get an estimate of what your idea would cost -- something that might be handy before you show your wife the pictures and she falls in love with it.
ShowOff.com allows you to digitize your home and then try paint colors, furniture, flooring and window coverings -- and once you are happy with the result, get an estimate for what your project would cost to do.
ShowOff.com is tied to a platform that was developed for realtors who needed something to get buyers through the horrid wall coverings and floors many homes on the market have. They can digitally replace the problem element and tell the prospective buyer how much the change would cost and what it would look like.
DealAngel: A Real Bargain
You could save some real money using DealAngel, and I'm all about saving money. The folks who make this online tool also make one of the leading hotel revenue-management tools. The tool they make for the hotels allows them to adjust rates real-time to ensure they are competitive and can fill their rooms.
Folks increasingly shop online, and if you're not competitive, folks are staying someplace else. What DealAngel does is looks at the same data and present the best savings to the user. This allows the traveler to get the best hotel package at the lowest overall price -- and this system, like it's hotel sibling, updates in real time.
Demo was amazing again this year. One thing I particularly liked was that several tools addressed problems I had, and that a number of the new companies coming out of schools were focused on being environmentally aware and making the world a better place as a tangential goal.
Did I find the next big success story? No -- but those occur so seldom. I do think I found a bunch of people who are passionate about technology and making the world better, and those are my kind of people.
Product of the Week: Intuitive Motion Electrical ZBoard
There was a product at Demo I just had to have. You see, I'm often sending my car down the hill from my house to have the sound system, breaks, tires or suspension upgraded. Like Disneyland, this car will never be done. It's about three miles from my house, though, and my wife is often off doing other things, so I'm in for a long hike. My bike won't fit in the trunk of the Jag, and I'm sure not paying US$5K for a Segway.
Well, Intuitive Motion announced Zboard, a big electric skateboard with a top speed of 17 miles per hour and a five-mile range that'll get me where I need to go. (You can get a pro model with twice the range.)
This isn't a kid's toy -- this is an on-road/off-road offering with the power and range to function as transportation. They started pre-orders at the show, and for around $500 I could get a device that could ensure that I never have to make that damn three-mile hike ever again. And what could be cooler than getting down and back up the hill on a skateboard? Hell, I'm feeling younger already.
For making me feel like a kid again, the Intuitive motion electrical skateboard is my product of the week. Damn -- Demo kind of became an expensive show for me this year.