TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 Startup Battlefield
Last week, UntappedSF attended the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in San Francisco to witness the latest ideas brewing in the startup world. Some may have noticed the hashtag #tcdisrupt making its rounds on Twitter or an inundation of tweets about startups such as Bitcasa, Farmigo and Cake Health-three of the seven finalists in this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield.
For those who are unfamiliar with the event, TechCrunch Disrupt is a platform for new startups to gain exposure by demo-ing how their products work. An event like Disrupt can easily put a new startup on the map, just as it did for many of this year’s participants. With venture capital flowing through the Bay Area like a tidal wave, reminiscent of the dot-com heyday, TechCrunch Disrupt offers entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their ideas and explain how they can disrupt the tech world with the next great billion-dollar idea. The feature event of the three-day conference was the much-anticipated Startup Battlefield, where 30 new startups competed for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 in prize money, and massive media coverage. And despite some quixotic ideas, overall, the startups did not disappoint.
Shaker, an Israeli startup, was one of seven finalists and also this year’s Startup Battlefield champion, proving that social networking applications are still hot today. Shaker is a really simple concept: it aggregates data from a Facebook profile and allows users to meet and greet in an online social environment, simulating an experience that one might have in a bar. What truly separates Shaker, though, is its ability to transform a large and sometimes impersonal social environment like Facebook into a more intimate and digestible social setting. While still in its beta phase, Shaker is primed to change the way you meet people online. While Shaker took home this year’s winning prize in the Startup Battlefield, there were many other innovative ideas that caught my attention.
Tonara was one of them, with its attempt to disrupt the sheet music industry for music aficionados. Tonara’s idea is to offer digitized sheet music for musicians through tablet devices. Since learning that most musicians still purchase hard copies of sheet music and often have trouble finding music, Tonara founder, Yair Lavi, began working on disrupting the music industry. After he approached several musician friends about the idea, they immediately bought in. While digitizing sheet music is certainly an untapped idea, what further separates Tonara is a sound recognition technology-known as acoustic polyphonic score following-that knows exactly when it’s time to turn a page. A thin red line will follow along with the musician and will anticipate, with incredible accuracy, exactly when the musician is ready for the next page of music. Tonara also offers musicians an educational component as well, by aggregating data on which notes were played out of tune and when the musician deviated from the written rhythm. Startup Battlefield judges were very quick to point out that there isn’t a sizable market for the sheet music industry; however, Mr. Lavi claimed that it is a two billion dollar opportunity. Additionally, Tonara is said to be the first of its kind in offering polyphonic score following technology and is looking to add to the 150 songs in its library at a rate of approximately 100 songs per month.
Some other notable ideas from the conference were Bitcasa, a cloud storage service that securely stores an unlimited amount of data for $10 per month, and Vocre, a voice translation application that allows users to speak into an iPhone using one language and have an accurate translation come out within seconds. Vocre, which also took home two awards, the Best Mobile app and the Audience choice award, was built in two and a half months. Cakehealth, a Mint.com lookalike for the health care industry that allows users to input health care information and see where they can save money, and Farmingo, a completely do-it-yourself way of purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables directly from farms, also created some buzz.
In addition to the Startup Battlefield, TechCrunch Disrupt also featured fireside chats with industry experts.On Monday, the audience heard from longtime Sequoia Capital partner Doug Leone, who gave one of the more transparent and informative interviews of the conference. How should startups roll out their ideas in an intensely competitive industry? Leone recommends that they capitalize on their stealth and speed, especially in the early goings, “My advice is to run like a son of a gun and don’t tell a soul [about it].” With an increasingly competitive job market and an abundance of venture capital these days, startups will continue sprouting up in every direction. Look out for game-changing ideas from the startup world to disrupt the way people do things. And, if you’re an entrepreneur, I’d heed Leone’s advice and build your product secretly until it’s ready to go. Check out the highlights from NYC’s TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this year.