Last fall I wrote a little guest piece for Mashable about some great conferences that achieved success primarily through word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). One such conference was Twiistup, founded by Mike Macadaan. Based in Los Angeles with a strong focus on L.A.-borne innovation, Twiistup pegs itself as a disruption to larger conferences. As I wrote:
On a small scale, it rivals DEMO in that it features several startups selected to debut their products to an audience of media, technologists, venture capitalists and potential angel investors. What it has going beyond DEMO is its more “Webby” feel and almost cocktail party atmosphere.
"You can go sit in an auditorium and listen for three to four days, but typically the best stuff happens in the hallways, during breaks and the happy hours," Macadaan said. "That's where you get to meet likeminded people in a natural setting and real conversatios start to happen."
The focus is to showcase innovation that stands as a "space leader" for solving real problems. Macadaan says the judges rate the companies first and foremost on solving unmet needs. The companies don't necessarily new, they just need to be addressing a need that, in the judges' views, are not being strongly challenged in the marketplace.
"The technologies don't just meet IT needs, but everyday human needs," Macadaan said. "Second to that the judges review specifics about the companies themselves -- founders, experience, technological advnatage, and how they've spent their money. Companies that have done a lot and made progress with small amounts of people and without burning through money are usually focused and disciplined."
Twiistup 5 is happening on Thursday, Feb. 12, at Private Hangar West LA and the Twiistup team currently expects about 1,000 people. The judges have already determined 10 finalists (which attendees can vote for on the event site and at the event itself) and I asked Macadaan why each were on the Twiistup judges' radar:
"Causecast does a couple things right. It's an all-in-one site that aggregates information about several nonprofits and it is also using great social principles. So if you don't have $100 to donate to a cause you can still become active through the site to raise awareness for a cause."
"Ever been in a meeting and everyone tries to avoid being the one to take notes so he or she can actually participate? Cogi allows people to do that. They automate notetaking by recording the meeting and transcribing the audio into writing so you can email the notes. Works in both live settings and over the phone."
"eHow, which has been around a while, is basically a how-to site on how to do just about everything, from organizing your office to deep-frying a turkey. eHow provides a combination of professionally written content and user-generated content."
"This is just a great site. Usually when you buy a new cell phone or gadget you toss the user manual because it isn't helpful. FixYa hosts a ton of user-generated content on how to fix things. So if, for instance, your Wii doesn't start up, you can go on there and learn both obvious and hidden fixes."
"GoGreenSolar helps you equip your home with solar electricity. It gives you the tools you need to determine how much you would save by going solar, and then you can go straight to ordering what you need. There is both an editorial and commerce component."
"Take all of your instant messenger clients and aggregate all of that on a single Web page. If your IM contacts are busy, join in a Meebo chat room and exchange ideas with other Meebo users."
"This is for people who truly need to be in two places at once. Say I am an engineering manager and I just hired 50 engineers in Bangalore and need to be present to manage them. RoboDynamics actually provides a robot you can control from the Web, and it has a Webcam on it and a screen so you can control where the robot goes. The camera also captures your face and their faces. The company calls it 'telepresence.' They give people a way to be two places at once through robot proxy. Apparently Google is already using this."
"In any city in the world you can go to TheScene and see where the hottest parties or events are going on that night. Rather than Yelp which looks at everything, this is really focused on nightlife, parties and clubs. There are a lot of social elements including live streaming from parties and instant photo uploads."
"These guys do facial recognition in video. Users can upload video content and with Viewdle they can index friends automatically through facial recognition. This is more of a future needs but as more and more video content is uploaded to the Web, it will need to be more easily indexed."
"Yammer provides an in-the-cloud microblogging service for companies. They'd created a lot of buzz for themselves at the time of judging by winning TechCrunch50."
If I were attending Twiistup and I were to cast a vote, I would have to go for RoboDynamics, only because it's cool and different, not necessarily because I see an immediate need in my life. Outside of the initial cool factor I'd have to put my vote in for Cogi as I could see that as being a highly relevant solution in my daily work life.
What wouldn't be on my radar? Yammer. For one, I think Present.ly does it better. Secondly, I still have issues with Yammer's business model.
Who would you choose?