The Next Web startups




Aside from speakers, The Next Web also showcased 19 startups  from an initial list of 200 (though only 18 showed up due to a patent issue). Sun Microsystems sponsored the competition with the eventual winner being presented with a cheque from Netlog.

Left to right – the judging panel; Werner Vogels (CTO of, Robin Wauters (editor TechCrunch) and Stewart Townsend (manager of startups, Sun Microsystems) photo courtesy of

Anne Helmond

Out of this list a few caught my eye as I felt they definitely offer something new, or needed, online. TechCrunch were on the judging panel and it was they reminded the startups that they wanted to see the business case on each presentation. It was not enough to purely have a good idea, it needed to be monetised and be an attractive investment opportunity, and they had to get the message across in 5 minutes.

I think the five companies listed below have something going for them, not only in what they do but what they represent.

Taking the basic premise that guide books offer too much general info and that people do not want to feel like tourists. This product allows a user to create a bespoke guide book and share their own guide with others filled with the best, recommended content.

There is also a mobile version that sits alongside the website. The printed book is bought from the site and delivered to the door. Each destination covered has dedicated editors that verify the collated content about the place – unlike other services.

It is a really simple idea of getting the wisdom of crowds made into something highly bespoke and useful. Beta out this summer.

Billed as ‘How Business Does Twitter’ its a management tool for tweets that allows you to search and monitor Twitter for keywords, brand mentions and run campaigns within the Twitter sphere.




Value of this derives from the value that businesses find in monitoring the noise around brand terms. I have blogged previously about the importance of audience engagement and tools such as this will help the online marketer as they need ways of monitoring noise around their products.





Huddle addresses the eternal question – why is it so hard to work together? It allows management of projects, and is billed as a useful SharePoint. It has simple workflows, wikis, discussion boards and online meetings. In many ways it builds on programs such as Basecamp and combines it with social networking tools, making it a unified collaborative solution.

Collaboration is still a key sticking point in many companies, from file sharing and storage to meetings and work allocation. With an online open system there is an immediate way for people to start collaborating with the minimum of fuss. This is an attractive proposition for many companies who can not afford or want to be tied to SLAs and expensive license fees.

A new look at PowerPoint tools but is in fact a completely different animal because of its presentation style.

This product has a large workspace that is not confined by a slide dimension or a linear slide show. It is the closest application I have seen that reflects mind mapping, not only in the output but the creative way of compiling a presentation. Has zoom, slide and panning reminiscent of Sea Dragon type of application and even works on a Wii.


This way of visualising information improves memory in the audience and lends itself to a more attractive, less text heavy experience. It would also be a brilliant tool in conveying concept models to clients because of the way it builds relationships through a narrative. Really impressive.
Allows publishers to add interactivity to their videos easily. This includes forms, chapterisation of content, RSS on video and voting. Should have been done some time ago but its good to see its out there now.

Without huge costs to an enterprise, this seems to be a cost effective solution with an easy to use drag and drop interface. Video should no longer be a linear experience online, the old way of consuming media will give way to a more interactive model – its been a long time coming.


Finally the winner and the only reason I have included it here. In my opinion I feel that it very closely mirrors Zyb (acquired last year by Vodafone).




The difference here is that E has a USB hardware piece of kit that allows users to touch to exchange details. It has a neat use of RFID technology and is an obvious application of the Open ID philosophy.

They say that E is about bridging the gap between the physical and virtual world but I am not convinced. Slick presentation, nice site and product design and a partisan crowd all helped their case but I was left feeling I had seen it all before…


The Now Web
Seeing the startups was a great reality check against some of the ivory towers being talked about in other presentations. The hard reality is that these products and services need to make money. That means they must cater for the majority (or be so tantalising that they get snapped up by a company investor).

You can’t help but feel that this fact kills a part of innovation and creativity by the time they get to launch. What we saw on stage were viable and interesting businesses, but you wonder if Twitter is really the biggest revelation we will get from the internet in 2009?

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