The Web Innovators Group started by David Beisel been one of my favorite Boston startup events for several years. I last went to one in 2008, and one event in which PunchBowl presented. Now having moved back to Boston, I found myself at the Web Inno 32 meeting.
The event maintains the same format: there are 3 main dishes: startups that present on the main stage, and several side dishes that have demo tables available to them. Selections are made by David, I assume.
The event has grown massively in size since 2008, reflecting the enthusiasm for startups in the Boston area. The caliber of the entrepreneurs presenting also seems to be much higher. Here are my reviews of the main dishes:
1. Best Vendor helps people discover business applications for tasks ranging from marketing to accounting; from note taking to personal productivity. Sign up is simple; you mention your 3 favorite apps, log in via LinkedIn, and you get application recommendations. The more you add applications and fill in your profile, the better your recommendations become.
The platform solves a legitimate problem; for businesses, it is not easy to find the best applications for a given category; for the companies making these applications, the cost of customer acquisition is pretty high. While the revenue model for Best Vendor is a little unclear, presumably they will likely depend on fees from the application providers in return for cheaper customer acquisition.
The one thing that was a bit lacking was the demo itself; I love demos that tell a story and present the application in Clayon Christensen's 'Job to be done' format. The idea is simple, but profound. Every product is hired to do a job. Present what job your product is doing, and then demo how it is doing that. Demo done. Instead, the demo featured on a bunch of features and moved haphazardly through different screens.
2. Kibits Labs was probably the coolest of the bunch; it is a IPhone application that enables rich group messaging. You really need to either see the demo or download and use it to experience it. The demo itself was presented very well; the CEO Matt Cutler discussed some real life use cases;he is a very successful serial entrepreneur and mentor at Techstars, and it is obvious that he has done this before. In particular the Thanksgiving case appealed to me. Let's say you have extended family, all of which cannot get together to celebrate. Instead, you invite everyone to a Kibits group, and its easy to share pictures, videos and keep it separate from all your other texting/email junk. The application shows updates, shifts between items effortlessly. With the coolness factor. Kibits won the Audience Choice award by a narrow margin.
3. My favorite was restaurant reviews site Tasted Menu. It solves a legitimate problem; how often have you asked a friend, or the server at the restaurant 'What is good here?' Well, hello Tasted Menu. It is very easy to find restaurants on the site, and look up top rated menu items. They are coming up with a mobile app soon as well. Currently they are based in Boston, but will expand to other cities shortly.
I find the team to be pretty impressive; a pretty young HBS grad as CEO, a UI designer from TripAdvisor, a Ranking and Reputation engineer from Google and a Food Anthropologist (yes, those exist) managing the food taxonomy. They have been around since 2009, and are likely to do very well.
So here is to the next batch of Kick Ass Webb Inno companies!