A second screen for your laptop. Reading email attachments in the cloud on your Symbian phone or watching a presentation on the phone while you talk on the phone. Paying dues for your football club through a custom mobile app. Pushing Excel workloads of billions of calculations into the cloud. Gathering up contacts from your email and syncing them with the information you have in the cloud. There are some interesting products on show here at DEMO Spring 10 (and a few that make us blink in confusion).
After each group of presentations a panel of venture capitalists comments on the companies (and occasionally blink in confusion at some products). The last panel of the day covering cloud apps took a swift turn into some basic business common sense and covered some things that are often skipped over when startups come up with new products. Venture capitalist Satish Dharmaraj of Redpoint Ventures went back to why cloud is good for smaller businesses: "You can take advantage of the capital efficiency of cloud to create a company with not much capital, tuning your sales model to be less onerous than it used to be. You can have low touch sales via open source or freemium, by being able to get people to come to your site by social media marketing."
And while much of the Web 2.0 world was fuelled by the belief that 'if you build it, they will come', VC Mike Maples pointed out that you have to actually reach people who want your product. "Distribution, distribution, distribution. It's such a basic idea: how you're going to get your stuff to the guy that buys it is 80% of what it takes to be successful. It can't just be 'we have an awesome product'. More startups should be equally as distribution led as they are technology led."
And Nancy Schoendorf of Mohr Davidow Ventures put it even more simply: "How much can you charge and how big is your market?".
The failure of the dotcom boom a decade ago was the assumption that a domain name was a substitute for a business plan; there are plenty of startups that think a cool technology is a substitute for a business plan. Only a fraction of the neat ideas we're seeing at DEMO will be around in a year's time; the ones that people buy and use, the companies that make a business of their technology. It's good to get a reminder of that.