Early Adopter: Quick Hits from the Launch Conference

Yesterday was the launch of the two-day Launch Conference, a start-up demo orchestrated by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

Aside from presiding over the event–playing a cross between a master of ceremonies and Jerry Lewis at a telethon–Calacanis also put together a field of start-up judges to give feedback to the companies. (Full disclosure: BoomTown’s Kara Swisher will serve as a judge this morning.)

At the end, winners will be crowned by winning a combo of judge and audience votes.

But, since nearly every company that has presented thus far has mentioned that they are seeking funding, the real winners will be the ones that go home with a pocket full of checks signed by the angel investors present.

If that focus was ever far from the minds’ of the audience members, they’d be immediately reminded by Calacanis’ shuttling back and forth between the angel investors in the front row, mic in hand, asking them which companies they will be investing in after the show.

Early Adopter took a swing around the demo pit where all the companies present have set up shop, so here are a few quick hits and highlights:

Trend: Deals are the new social.

It seemed everyone who offered a location-based service was also serving you contextual deals of some kind.

One company, Karma Key, gets my vote for most interesting implementation of the deal at Launch.

While it was not the most polished, and has significant hurdles ahead to reach scale, the company hopes to replace all the paper loyalty-cards we carry in our wallets through a combination of low-tech point-of-sale partnerships and high-tech points systems that are more flexible and secure than punching holes.

Karma Key also delivers metrics on loyalty conversion to the merchants.

Trend: Tech your workout.

The only company demo I saw that made every judge sit forward in their chairs with the glee of new user was Zepp Labs, with a product called GolfSense.

Although it’s little more than a three-axis accelerometer (the kind inside your smartphone) worn on a golf glove, the app allows you to view your golf swing in 3D, and get feedback on both the regularity and conformity, so you won’t repeat a bad swing.

There were other fitness-related companies present, but honorable mention for addressing a real pain point goes to Shoefitr–it maps the inside shape and size of running shoes, so you can see how a new model will fit based on your previous shoes. You can even see a 3D model of the inside space of your desired shoe, with a heatmap of where the new shoe will be looser or tighter.

It is already live at Running Warehouse, an online running shoe retailer, and I imagine tools like this will pop up elsewhere soon.

Early Adopter Picks:


The Cabana team made its demo simple, essentially creating a clone of Instagram, the popular photosharing app, on-stage, with no coding.

Most apps rely on a stock series of functions. Cabana allows the app creator to design the app graphically in a visual programming environment (think Yahoo Pipes, or Max MSP, which is popular with artists and musicians).

Several of the judges who started life as developers did quietly grunt in disapproval over not owning your own code, but similar folks once had the same attitude toward WordPress.


Its quick pitch: OnCompare is like Yelp for software as a service.

If you have a small or medium business, and aren’t sure which cloud file storage system to use, for example, you can answer a few questions and get statistical recommendations from several service providers based on the features they offer.

Those feature-based recommendations are then added to ranks from people with the hope of helping decision-makers be better informed, at a lower cost, without the need for an RFP.


This video-editing app, which is currently for sale in the Mac app store, might be called an Instagram for video, or it might be called a Vimeo for control freaks.

The app allows users to live mix effects, text, and transitions into video (without rendering time) and then post those live–or near-live–video and photo creations to social streams.

I can’t yet tell if users will sink their teeth into this type of social video creation and mixing, but I’m always a fan of a divergent solution to a popular problem.

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