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.
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.