Learnings and Thoughts from Launch

Posted on February 27, 2011 by kennynorton No Comments

Launch Logo

So the first incarnation of Launch has come and gone. I’m now in the SFO Airport staring in the food court staring at a Subway that has personal pizzas.. now that’s innovative. Also without my phone… which you’ll read about below. :\

I had a great time in San Francisco, met lots of inspiring and innovative people and got to see the bleeding edge of technology. This post is dedicated to some of the insights I pulled out of the conference and most importantly to congratulate Jason Calacainas on a near perfect Startup conference.

So for those that didn’t catch the first blog post, Launch is a conference where over 100 startups have an opportunity to launch their technology product/company in front of a variety of technology venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and early adopters. I went to the event to witness the future of technology and get inspired about doing my own start up some day and I definitely accomplished that over the last 2 days.

My top 5 most noteworthy companies:

CabanaApp – An amazing WYSIWIG (What you see is what you get) iphone app creator. So basically it will allow individuals who don’t know how anything about coding.. and allow you to create an iphone app by drop and dragging and clicking. I’ve been thinking about this as something I could use for a long time, typically you would have to pay 5,000 – 10,000+ for a developer to create the most simple of apps. Now with Cabana you can create these simple offerings by yourself. *Mind Blown*

GreenGoose – This product didn’t blow me away at first, but the presentation grew on me. The idea is basically bringing elements of RPG (Role Playing Games) i.e Final Fantasy in to real life. So it will encourage you to do things like flossing, drinking water etc. and will encourage you by keeping track of it all with stickers that can gauge the movement with accelerometers (what the iPhone uses). Once you let the use cases for the product sink in, I think it will blow you away. I also read the very inspiring story behind the creator Brian Krejcarek, and how he has literally giving everything to his company, I’m elated to hear he has raised over $400,000 in Venture Capitalist funding to get the idea to market.

HipMunk – HipMunk is a great offering which I could have benefited on my flight to San Francisco. I booked my flight fairly last minute and ran into multiple sticky situations because I didn’t pick the most optimized flight for me. Basically the coolest thing about HipMunk is they have created an “agony” algorithm which I would call a “least pain in the ass” algorithm which combines price, duration and number of stops to give you a nice organized list of the flights that would be best suited for you. And as you can see below it gives you a simple Microsoft Project-like timeline of how that flight looks. This is without a doubt the cleanest, quickest flight booking website I have ever seen. And I will be using this to book for my all of my future flights, because (I forgot to mention) you can book right within the system through Orbitz.com.

Pen.IO – Pen.IO allows you to make a quick note that you can share with others in seconds. The simplicity of the design will wow you, lots of complaints going around that its similar to google docs.. I like the thought that you can share this easily with multiple people, with zero set up. Google Docs would take 30 minutes to set up and get going and share, this takes 30 seconds.

ShoeFitr: Have you ever bought a pair of shoes online? Have you ever bought a pair of shoes online that didn’t fit? Yeah, me too! ShoeFitr is a piece of software that is to be attached to an e-commerce website like Zappos that will allow you to see the recommended size of shoe based on shoes that have fit you in the passed. In a particular beta program, Shoefitr was able to decrease shoe purchase returns by over 25%. This is truly re-markable. When I was in university I had the idea of creating a social networking site for shoes, I ended up not going through with the idea due to resources, but this idea is close to me as I think it would have fit perfectly into proposed social network. And the technology addresses a real problem, that I’ve been frustrated with for a while (buying shoes online) which is precisely why I think it’s such a great idea.

Lon Harris

The most noteworthy and inspiring person I met on the whole event? Lon Harris, a guy that I’ve watched in the early days of This Week in Startups, and then virtually every single show in the “ThisWeekin” network. I along with my friend Zach Woodward (who I attended the event with) ran into him several times and even walked all the way back to the hotel we all were coincidentally staying at “The Hotel Whitcomb” and talked startups, Mahalo and what kind of initiatives he’s been working on. Absolutely great guy, very down to earth and I hope he takes my advice and writes a book about his experiences and knowledge.

I met Tyler Crowley also who was extremely humble and open for a nice chat. Tyler is basically Jason’s number 2 at Mahalo and has some great startups of his own coming down the pipe, which is very exciting.

Ran into Jason Calacanis as well, who as you might expect didn’t have much time to stay and talk, but regardless, great to shake his hand and be in the presence of greatness.

Dave Mcclure was definitely my favorite judge at the event that I haven’t heard of before. He was extremely funny, aggressive, and told the contestants exactly what he thought, he actually handed Volta his information on stage because he “liked” the company so much.

Major disappointments:  was Kevin Rose who literally left right after his judging session was over, not a big deal, but definitely was looking forward to meeting him as I’ve been a big Digg supporter and Diggnation watcher for years and wanted to talk to him about his new podcast “Foundation”.

Another big disappointment was I seemed to be only person at the event with a Blackberry (and which I later lost). I’ve been rocking a Blackberry 9700 for the last year. And was semi-happy with it, I wasn’t really surprised with the amount of adoption of iPhone apps as it is much easier to program for. Anyways, long story short, someone apparently wanted my unique phone enough to snag it at the conference. Because I don’t have it. So if anyone saw it, or even picked it up, I would really like to have it back :)

All in All, it was my first time to the San Francisco and all I can say is WOW. What a conference, Jason really outdid himself. The catering was the best I’ve ever had at any event, volunteers were great, everything went without a single hitch. Congrats to the Launch team!

I would say I accomplished what I went for, seeing the future of technology, and getting inspired to do my own start up, sooner rather than later. Some of the companies who had launched had been working on it for a couple of weeks (in full gear), obviously some have been working on theirs for years. But it goes to show that Kevin Garnett was right.. “Anything is Possible”. Some great pointers that I picked up in terms of the importance of design, and also just knowing how to interact with Venture Capitalists would be the biggest take aways.

I’ll post some of my pictures from the event, but until then you can view the official Flickr site here brought to you by Kris Krug (KrisKrug.com OR staticphotography.com). You can also navigate to the official Youtube page to watch full versions of the pitches. BOOM!

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