I just read a great article on how to increase sales at software companies.
This is from the blog of Jason Cohen, a software entrepreneur in Austin, Texas.
Intel sponsors another significant event annually, the Intel + UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge. This year, the two events overlapped. The Intel Capital CEO Summit was November 16-18, and the Entrepreneurship Challenge was November 17-19.
I don’t have anything to do with the Entrepreneurship Challenge, but I was invited to the dinner on the 18th. Sadly, I had to miss it since I was still in Huntington Beach at the Summit. However, I was able to attend the Challenge final event tonight, the 19th, at the Haas School of Business at University of California at Berkeley.
The Entrepreneurship Challenge is a business plan competition for teams from all over the world. The semi-finalists and finalists presented their plans tonight in a public forum, and the four winning teams received cash prizes totaling $45,000.00.
I love business plan competitions. I’ve been a judge in the Haas Business Plan Competition for over five years. Generally, the judging day is the most exciting day of the year for me. It’s exciting because I get to meet some of the smartest and most enthusiastic people in the world.
The semi-finalists received 30 seconds each to deliver their ‘elevator pitches’. The finalists received about 10 minutes each. The finalist presentations were outstanding, but I did not capture them on video for this blog, as I consider them to be somewhat confidential. Yes, they presented in a public forum, but I don’t think the teams would want the presentations to be posted to the Internet. I did capture the elevator pitches on video for this blog, however, as they were so brief that I think sharing them online is not likely to harm the companies.
As you can see in the clip below, the ideas are quite varied, and are of high quality.
The winners of the competition were all non-US based teams. One team was from China, one was from Germany and one was from Singapore. The team from China won two prizes, the first place prize and the audience awarded prize for favorite team.
The winners were:
1st prize and people’s choice: iHeath Group
2nd prize: CaptchAd
3rd prize: Zimplistic
Here are the descriptions of the winning companies from the event’s website (EntrepreneurshipChallenge.org):
Ihealth – Tsinghua University, P.R. China
Ihealth Group aims to improve life quality with its revolutionary new product—MPHB biodegradable bone screws. Ihealth has developed MPHB bone screw in light of bionics which has been granted a national patent in China. Our product overcomes the disadvantages of the existing materials and provides a nearly perfect solution for the rehabilitation and fixation of bone injuries.
CaptchaAd – Technical University Munich, Germany
The CaptchaAd GmbH is the world’s first company to combine enhanced SPAM protection with interactive video advertising and thus increase the security on websites and facilitates visitor’s use, while at the same time ensuring a more conscious perception of advertising by the user. Instead of distorted codes conventional CAPTCHAs (an anti SPAM function used more than 250 million times a day worldwide) use to differentiate between humans and machines, CaptchaAd (Captcha Advertising) uses questions concerning the content of the spot. A CaptchaAd is a short commercial including a question which can easily be read and answered by site customers to substitute the “normal” CAPTCHA process. This results in a higher level of attention and involvement by the user to the viewed content.
Zimplistic – National University of Singapore, Singapore
Roti is staple diet of 800 million Indians eating 2.4 billion rotis everyday. Making rotis is a very time consuming, tedious and skillful task and since there is no fully automatic home appliance that makes rotis, people resort to unhealthy and expensive alternatives like frozen rotis. Zimplistic is a Singapore based startup that has designed & developed the first ever, fully automatic “Rotimatic”. It is like a coffee machine. It is the size of a mini microwave oven, the user just has to enter no. of rotis, and it measures, kneads, flattens, roasts and puffs rotis out.
I just got home from the Intel Capital CEO Summit in Southern California. Intel puts on such a compelling event for its Portfolio Companies.
I met some really interesting CEOs.
Jeff Liesendahl of Accertify, LLC (Accertify.com) in Illinois runs a fascinating company that helps online merchants avoid selling to customers that are using stolen credit card numbers. He has some crazy stories of fraud well beyond anything I have read about. I won’t post the stories here since he might not appreciate my repeating them in a public forum. But one story I can share as he said it hit the newspapers. He said there are criminal gangs that create fake profiles on eHarmony, looking for targets to defraud. One such profile showed a hunk of a man that advertised himself as a widowed engineer. It turns out he was a scammer living in Nigeria. He pursued a woman he met on eHarmony for nine months, and they got engaged without ever having met in person. eHarmony discovered the gang, and their security staff contacted the woman and told her this man was a criminal and that she must break off contact with him. The woman did not take heed, and said they must have made a mistake, as she was planning to marry this man. The man later convinced the woman to sell her house and wire him $160,000.00. Once she did that, she never heard from him again. What a story.
Jeff’s company has an apparently very solid business, as they seek to compile the same type of fraud detection databases the credit card companies maintain. These databases are used to detect fraud in progress by looking for unusual activity. What many people do not know is that the credit card companies don’t share their databases with online merchants, as they have no financial incentive to do so, as the merchants are 100% responsible for fraud. Jeff said online credit card fraud is a $100,000,000,000.00 per year problem, and the card companies want no part of that liability. Merchants have a very strong motivation to buy his company’s products and services.
Gail Kantor of eJamming (eJamming.com) also has a company I think is fascinating. eJamming allows musicians to play music together live over the Internet, no matter the location of each musician. They have spent five years perfecting their peer-to-peer software that, among other things, moderates the effect of different latency values that different Internet connections have.
Jens Nikolaj Aertebjerg, CEO of NeuString (neustring.com), has a company that makes predictive analytics software for the telecommunications industry. They promise to provide customers with a return on investment in just two months, the shortest ROI time frame I’ve ever heard of.
Finally, I got to meet Human Ramezani, in the IT Innovation area at BMW Group. I got to tell him my wish list for car features, and he graciously promised to pass them on to the right people at BMW.
Briefly, I would like to see ‘TiVo for radio’ where the car radio would record my favorite National Public Radio shows so I could listen to them no matter what time of day I am driving.
I would also like to see a system that would phone rescue personnel if a baby is left in a parked car. He said this one should be easy for them to implement since there is already a motion sensor inside the passenger compartment for break in detection. I suggested the car first phone and text message the owner, and if there is no quick response, the car would then call rescue personnel.
Finally, I would like to see motor vehicles cool themselves while parked in hot climates. This could be done with a small solar panel in the sun roof directly connected to a fan. The fan need not be connected to the vehicle battery, to avoid any danger of the fan draining the battery. The fan would only activate when there’s enough sun to power it, so there is no need for a power switch. I suspect a fair amount of oil is used in the world to cool hot car interiors just after starting. If the car interior were close to the outside air temperature, drivers wouldn’t have to run the air conditioner on high for the first minutes, thus saving fuel.
One of the most helpful features of the Intel Capital CEO Summit is the formal matchmaking between Portfolio Company CEOs and industry executives. The matchmaking is set up in a large ballroom. There are about 100 tables for two. A senior representative from such companies as BMW, Disney and Walmart is sitting at each table. The portfolio company CEOs are matched via a web application ahead of time. At the matchmaking event, each Portfolio Company CEO gets a private one-on-one meeting with five industry executives. This year I was matched with BMW, Agco Corporation, Corent Technology, Capgemini and NEUSoft Group International. One of these meetings was very good, and there was a direct match in interests, so I consider the matchmaking a valuable success.
There is a lot of energy in the room during the matchmaking meetings. Here’s a short video clip I shot showing the activity.
I saw three dimensional television for the first time tonight. It’s a remarkably captivating experience. I don’t know if it will ever take off, but it sure made an impression on the audience at the Intel Capital CEO Summit today in Huntington Beach, CA.
Here is a video I shot of a 3D television camera. It looks very expensive, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The flat panel TV in the video costs $8,500.00. When you put on the 3D glasses, look at the flat panel, and move your hand toward the TV camera, it looks to you like your hand is coming out of the TV screen. It’s stunning.
For the second year, I got to meet MC Hammer at the Intel Capital CEO Summit. MC wasn’t performing this year, like he did last year. But he was actively asking questions and meeting people. He grilled Sprint CEO Dan Hesse about Sprint’s plans for WiMax 4G broadband wireless service. MC sat at my table at dinner tonight after one of my table mates invited him to sit with us. At the end of dinner, I asked MC if I could have a picture with him, and he agreed. MC is particularly interested in website metrics and analytics, judging from the questions I heard him asking.
I am at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California this week attending the tenth annual Intel Capital CEO Summit (http://www.intel.com/capital/entrepreneur/ceosummit.htm). The company behind my website gOffice is one of the 175 Intel Capital Portfolio Companies participating this year. The three day conference promises to be very exciting. At the conference last year I got to meet and talk with Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Intel Capital President Arvind Sodhani.
One of the high points at the conference last year, in San Francisco, was an appearance by the musician and entrepreneur MC Hammer. He spoke about his company DanceJam.com, which was acquired earlier this year. I got to meet Hammer the next day when I was getting a glass of water when he said “Hi Kevin.” I was startled. He was standing by the refreshment table in one of the session ballrooms, and I just happened to be there at the same time he was there, and he read my name from my badge. We had a nice conversation, and I commented on how well he speaks in public. He told me his other work as a minister helped him hone his speaking skills.
It turned out DanceJam was funded in part by Ron Conway, who invested in my first Internet company, Hotpaper.com, through his angel fund at the time. Ron was actually at the Intel summit last year as well, as a guest of Hammer.