Special preview: DEMOfall '07 highlights

A new crop of startups take the stage to pitch their wares, and as usual, the accent is on Web 2.0 and collaboration

The annual Demo conference, where startups vie for the attention of VCs and established technology firms with fat wallets and a yen to buy something, is once again a reflection of what's hot in the high-tech industry.

Access to and the sharing of information is this year's theme with companies demonstrating tools for team collaboration, tracking online information, information filtering, and a technology that is harder to explain than use: Turning the Web in a participatory medium for bookmarking, clipping, and discussion sharing.

Diigo is both the name of the product and the company that turns a Web site into a "participatory" site, according to Wade Ren, CEO and co-founder. "Diigo doesn't need enterprise adoption to work, but the more people who do adopt it, the better it is," says Ren.

Diigo allows users to highlight portions of a Web site and add comments, using the design concept of a sticky note or a cartoon bubble. The note is persistent, so next time the user opens the site, the note will be there. The tool is a browser plug-in that can be downloaded and placed in the IE or Firefox tool bar. While wikis like Wikipedia make sets of pages writable and editable, Diigo makes the entire Web a writable media, according to Ren.

Taking sharing one step further, if Yuugu were a restaurant, it would serve meals family style. Yuugu, Japanese for "fusion," allows users to share their screens in real time with an unlimited number of users.

Although Yuugu has been available as a client download, the big news at Demo is that the company will be launching a Web 2.0 version that allows users to share or publish screens to the Internet with the click of a button. Built around the shared screen are an IM client and a Web conferencing tool.

The Yuugu service is free, but according to Anish Kapoor, the CEO, companies who license and offer the technology will be upselling additional business services, such as audit trails for IM and screen sharing or offering personalization and rebranding of the technology. Target markets include U.S. project team managers communicating with offshore developers and cross-platform collaboration between business users on a PC and Mac users in the creative media space.

Project management meets social networking in MyQuire from Quire, a business-class social networking and collaborative service that features a central dashboard leveraging wiki technology. Quire integrates files, project milestones, calendars, and updates. It also includes a VoIP and videoconferencing platform.

Like Yuugu, the service is free -- but for only the first five projects. Quire will upsell users on additional projects to manage and for other services, such as maintaining transcripts of VoIP conversations. According to CEO David Steinberg, MyQuire is the first PM tool that integrates PM components with live meetings, bringing together voice, video, and real time screen sharing.

Startups take the forefront at Demo '07
If project management isn't on the top of your application needs list, maybe you'll want to take a look at LongJump, an online application catalog that offers SaaS services through a marketplace. LongJump provides services around sales, marketing, and finance.

More than a marketplace, it also provides the platform on which developers can build their own applications, not unlike Salesforce.com's AppExchange, says founder and CEO Pankaj Malviya.

Malviya differentiates his company from Salesforce by saying that LongJump targets smaller companies, numbering 10 to 100 employees, and it offers the first two applications for free: OfficeSpace for team collaboration and Customer Manager for contacts.

"Once you have made yourself comfortable with these two, you can go to the other sales and marketing services or just go to the catalog," said Malviya.

Unlike the trend in past Demo conferences, this year's group of more than 70 presenters has a higher preponderance of startups targeting the business market rather than the consumer market.

One such company is Sway Online from Shoutlet.

Shoutlet allows users to manage so-called "social media campaigns," according to Jason Weaver, CEO.

A social media campaign typically consists of marketing products and services through a sponsored RSS feed, a podcast episode, or an embedded video that gets passed along to other viewers.

Aimed at the marketing department of an organization, Shoutlet lets marketers create, distribute, monitor, and track such campaigns and do real-time reporting. 

Weaver says that up until now there has been no single service that combines content management and collaboration.

"We have a unique create, distribute, and monitor tool," said Weaver.

Also focusing on rich media, Radar from MetaRADAR, pulls together rich content and allows users to navigate and view content on a single screen.

By serving up the content on a single screen and then standardizing the navigation tools, Radar lets users more easily move between Web sites, said Scott Rankine, CEO. 

"We pull it together to get the stuff you want. It just takes a quick click, and the user has a uniform format for content feeds and navigation," said Rankine.

While Radar tries to solve the problem of information overload from multiple sources, mSpoke's FeedHub takes a different approach to the same problem.

FeedHub is a so-called intelligent engine that filters content to the user by learning what the user wants to see.

"We make the feed reader smarter," said Dave Mawhinney, CEO and co-founder.

The technology analyzes RSS feeds and determines what topics and or issues are most important to the users. Once the analysis is complete the feed reader filters the content down to a single relevant feed.

Judging from the number of companies presenting at Demo this year that offer some form of collaborative environment, tool or platform, it is obvious that when it comes to the Internet helping business users make decisions there is safety in consensus and in numbers.

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