Startup Camp Sydney: The review

Startup Camp Sydney: The review

Summary: Three new Australian technology start-ups, uTag, TrafficHawk.com.au and LinkViz, were conceived and launched over the weekend in a lightning initiative dubbed "Startup Camp Sydney".

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Three new Australian technology start-ups, uTag, TrafficHawk.com.au and LinkViz, were conceived and launched over the weekend in a lightning initiative dubbed "Startup Camp Sydney".

LinkViz's graphical display

The project saw 20 would-be entrepreneurs congregate in the offices of Sydney tech incubator Geekdom, a division of marketing and communications firm the Photon Group, with the aim of creating a number of start-ups from scratch, going through the whole process from conception to launch.

According to the project's schedule, the three start-ups came up with ideas on Friday night, developed their products and drafted press kits on Saturday, and spent Sunday pitching the ideas to Australian venture capital firm Technology Venture Partners and congratulating themselves.

So what did they launch? According to their press release, three products:

  • uTag: Rewards people for the value they pass onto their online social networks. It's an advertising service which monetises outgoing links from sites.
  • TrafficHawk.com.au: A free website which mashes up NSW traffic data with Google Maps so that motorists can know what's going on before they leave home.
  • LinkViz: Appears to be some form of graphical screenshot cloud representing what users of the Twitter micro-blogging service are looking at right now.

Commentary
Firstly let me say that events like Startup Camp are awesome. I can't praise the organisers highly enough for getting this event off the ground; this sort of thing goes a long way to creating community and passing along training within Australia's technology start-up community.

Now on to the actual ideas, and testing out the sites. This commentary will be brief as there are three start-ups involved here.

uTag: My first impression was that I just didn't really understand what this site is trying to do. The start-up's confusing name and website initially made it hard to work out what was going on. A video and screenshots would have really helped.

uTag also gets demerit points for writing a press release, but not actually sending it to me until this morning. Come on guys! I know Startup Camp had my details. You should have sent press releases to the press when the site launched.

With all that out of the way, I finally worked out what uTag actually does. If you are a blogger, a Twitterer, or indeed any other form of content creator, you can use uTag to monetise links from your site to others.

uTag will display ads when a user clicks on a link on your site that takes them elsewhere. For example, if you clicked on a link to ZDNet.com.au on another site, uTag would display a relevant ad above the ZDNet.com.au page. Most of the ad revenue from this goes back to the site owner.

I think this is a very interesting idea with enormous potential. I also think most people will hate it.

The last thing you want when you're reading someone's site is for them to interfere with your experience when you click an external link on their page. As a user I found the service annoying and felt that it hijacked my normal browsing experience. If this takes off, expect a Firefox plug-in to be developed which will shut it down.

TrafficHawk.com.au: Pretty good site and implementation. I particularly love the green or black icons showing where pain points in the traffic network are (or aren't), as well as the integration with the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's cameras.

TrafficHawk.com.au's view of Sydney.

Serving Google ads gets TrafficHawk.com.au points for at least having a business model (a lot of start-ups don't), but I think the ability to serve more targeted, graphical advertisements would definitely give an immediate boost to the company's fortunes. Most large blogs have found Google ads a great way to get started, but the revenue curve seems to quickly level out.

There are obvious expansion possibilities for TrafficHawk.com.au to other geographies. Downside? The founders are not going to exit from this start-up via a buyout. Nobody is going to acquire this sort of service when they can build it themselves in a day or two.

LinkViz: Interesting idea, but overall I don't really understand what the team is trying to do here. Twitter is massive, but LinkViz is only showing a small portion of what are undoubtedly gazillions of links being micro-blogged: how do you choose what sites get shown here?

The site appears to have no contact details listed or ability for the user to customise it. And what exactly is the business model here? LinkViz just left me asking basic questions about the start-up. I noticed it uses uTag to monetise outgoing links. Perhaps that's the model.

All in all, it's impressive that these three sites have gotten off the ground so quickly, and bootstrappr applauds the effort. It will be fascinating to see how uTag, TrafficHawk.com.au and LinkViz handle the challenges faced by all start-ups as they continue to move forward.

Topics: Start-Ups, Enterprise 2.0

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Talkback

4 comments
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  • The TrafficHawk Exit

    Hi Renai,

    Thanks for the writeup and taking the time to review each of the startups. In terms of the 'exit' options for TrafficHawk, you're quite right it isn't going to make any of us rich. When we went through the selection process on Friday night, we defined our selection criteria, and financial reward as about 6th on the list - our highest priorities were making something useful for the public, and something that we could have a shot as making useful and self managing after the end of the weekend (all of the members of our group are busy with demanding startups of our own, and didn't want to create a long term distraction).

    Having said that, there are numerous opportunities to take the data we're collecting forward. By geocoding and storing all historical incidents, we can show a history of incidents, again, visually, even limited to time of day. Another benefit is the capture and storage of the camera photos - again, we can show trends over time. Interesting? Yes. Useful? Potentially. Profitable? Questionable.

    The other area we spec'ed out by couldn't make happen in a weekend was allowing users to store their travel routes, including the times and dates that they usually take those routes. We could then notify members via email before departure, as well as via sms while en route. Interesting? Sure. Useful? Definitely! Profitable? Questionable.

    The main limitation on the profitability of this sort of business isn't really the opportunity to monetise the model - I'm sure advertisers would be interested in talking to people who are guaranteed to be driving past their business just before they leave the office - what's for dinner? Similarly, people checking the traffic before they leave in the morning could easily be tempted to search for a holiday or perhaps a new house closer to work. This sort of data makes the advertising much more relevant and likely to convert.

    But, the real issue is bringing in the advertisers. Generic ad networks, particularly here in Australia, just don't have the level of granular selection to take advantage of these sorts of solutions. Heaven knows they'll need to in the future as the number of location aware devices proliferate, but for the moment, the monetisation is really limited by the shortcomings in the market.

    And even then, we're still rational to know it isn't going to make any of us rich; we just hope it makes dealing with Sydney's shocking traffic a bit easier for people. After all, with StartupCamp, we wanted to learn some stuff, meet some great people and help develop the reputation of the community. TrafficHawk has allowed those of us who participated to achieve the first two, and hopefully a bit more publicity and use will see the third achieved too.

    Thanks for covering the event and our companies once again.

    Geoff McQueen
    Co-founder, TrafficHawk.com.au
    CEO Hiive Systems
    anonymous
  • RE: Start Up Camp

    Renai - Great article.

    My feedback...
    1. always a great idea to bring would-be entrepreneurs into a room to meet and brain storm.
    2. doesn't matter too much what they made over the weekend, at least they met other people passionate about start-ups and i am sure some will have gained great contacts for the future.
    3. u-tag - can't see this taking off, as you say it is going to annoy most people and you would have to be a massive site to referring a lot of traffic away from your site anyway to make it worthwhile.
    4. traffic-hawk - could be a useful service for some. i understand NSW traffic is a nightmare, but google already does this in silicon valley and i would imagine it would be coming to australia before too long.
    5. linkviz - love twitter, but personally i am not going to spend my time looking at a chart of web pages that a select % of the twitterverse is referring. like you say, it would be more interesting if i could tailor it to my twitter friends, but even still i dont think i would bother.
    6. hope i havent offended anyone, i think the general idea of getting everyone together is a good one and expect something either directly or indirectly related to the weekend will be successful over time.
    anonymous
  • that was me

    sorry - didn't realise that it would anon my name.
    That was my comment/feedback above.

    Regards
    Clay Cook
    www.claycook.net
    anonymous
  • TrafficHawk

    To the guys at TrafficHawk, I think your biggest competition will come from the navigation devices which are becoming increasingly connected. There are already services that feed these devices and they can automatically reroute accordingly. I think the average commuter will find that more appealing than having to spend time analysing the traffic on their PC each morning. Cost is probably in your favour though.

    Having said that, good on ya for having a go, and good luck in this and any future endeavours. I hope you do well.
    anonymous