All the discussion of lipstick these days makes me think of the old adage, "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince." Sure, some frogs are so awful they're utterly unkissable, and some hop away as soon as they see you pucker up, but it's generally a good truism.
Tonight I dropped in on Web Innovators Group's 19th demo meeting shindig at the Royal Sonesta to watch the frogs line up. The event drew an impressively-sized crowd, although not as animated as the crew at the last one, which shouted at each presenter with great gusto, "how are you going to make money?" And if there was an after-party at Helmand, I missed it this time. Three companies were given longer demo slots as "main dishes"
First up was Givvy.com, a site that proclaims, "Better Givving for a Better World™" - talk about creating your own category. I work for a company with "giving" in the name, too. Givvy helps people organize their charitable givving with a searchable database of charities and a sort of charity mutual fund concept. They also help you with year-end tax prep. There's a social aspect in that you can share your charity lists with others. They say they're going to make money by selling corporate packages to companies, but I also spied some google ads on their site. They partner with Network for Good, who are known to take a fee on donations, so I wonder what if anything Givvy's share is. Maybe its just me, but I'm just not sure there are a lot of people who want to give but can't figure out where or how to do so.
Next, Brring.com, "a free ringback service" huh? I guess I've been under a rock of some kind. Apparently there are lots of people who pay good money to change the sound heard by people who call them. Not ringtones like the noise your phone makes when people call you, but ringback tones, what callers hear before you pick up. Weird. Anyway, Brring lets you do some sound editing on their site to create these tones (and of course you can share them), and makes money by running tiny audio ads that are played to people who call you before the ringback tone kicks in. I must be old fogy of some sort, because this all sounds terribly annoying to me.
Finally, Pixily.com showed us how they help you save "time, money, space and trees" by scanning all the paper that fills our lives and making it available (and sharable, natch) and searchable onlne. There are definitely some issues they have to work out, not least among them the security and confidentiality of the paper they handle, but they have a revenue model and unlike the preceding two, they seem to be solving a problem that actually exists. My main disappointment is that they return your scanned paper to you - I'd much rather see them store it or shred it, like Iron Mountain does.
The SMS-voting masses confirmed my choice of Pixilly as the most likely to get kissed with an overwhleming 2/3 of the votes. Givvy did ok and Brring was down in the single digit percents.
The "side dishes" got 30-second audio-only pitches and were to my ears not too engaging. Half a minute can be a long time; I think most of them could have used it better. Only JobVent and OpenVote stuck out in my mind after. JobVent because it's an entertaining idea (almost exactly what it sounds like) and OpenVote because the speaker claimed that it's a Web 2.0 play that's not dependent on ads for revenue. Now that would be innovative.
So, what did I take away from this? My three and a half thoughts for the night:
1.0 Web 2.0 social whatsis business models propped up by ads are still getting treated with some respect. Maybe less than before, but many are still puffing on that particular crack pipe.
2.0 Clear thinking and good presentation skills are still in shorter supply than I'd like. In the short and the long timeslots, there was often a serious lack of getting to the point and selling the sizzle. Or maybe there was just no sizzle.
3.0 There is hope that technology does occasionally put itself to use to solve problems rather than create them. If that hope has any hope of making money, I'm still not so sure.
3.5 Product/company naming trend that's going to explode in 2009: Ends in -y (givvy, pixily, what's nexty?) You read it here first.