WSA 2007 Investment Forum and Technology Showcase Roundup

WSA 2007 Investment Forum and Technology Showcase Roundup

Earlier today, I had the pleasure to moderate and be the judge of two wireless panels at the WSA 2007 Investment Forum and Technology Showcase – kind of like final of the American Idol of the Tech world.

I also attended some of the other keynote panels. We will get to the panel discussion in a bit but first, the morning kicked with an exciting discussion between Mark Anderson, CEO, Strategic News Service and Peter Wilson, Engineering Director, Google. It was classic Mark. Readers might be familiar with Mark as the originator of the the term “AORTA” – the name of this blog.

with Mark Anderson

The whole Web 2.0 business model has thus far been around advertising, even with mobile and new UGC companies, it has been all about gathering eye-balls and monetize by advertising, and hope to God, one of the GYMs or perhaps media companies will buy them out. But this model can’t sustain, can it?. Mark and Peter beautifully captured the essence of the promise and the hype of the backbone of this model. Mark noted in his recent newsletter

For all the talk about Web 2.0 (thank you, Mr. O’reilly) and other toolkit changes, there is no money involved. Take all the social networking sites, and how exciting it is to have your own yearbook page with animation and lipstick, but – it’s still a pig. And the only way that pig looks even mildly attractive is because someone is trying to staple ad money to its left ear.

Google is clearly trying to broaden its revenue stream beyond advertising. Mark didn’t think Google’s approach of going after the enterprise customer is working and is unlikely to gain much momentum. Peter was upbeat about SAAS model and thought everytime someone uses a browser for an application over the net, the value of Microsoft’s franchise decreases. He was upbeat on UGC and Mashups and thought it will create tremendous opportunities.

Mark, Jeremy, and Peter

Mark is really good at analogies and coming up with good acronyms. He likened the advertising business to the river of money and everyone wants to tap into it. Mark warned that too many companies are going after advertising business while agencies are going to gravitate towards top 3-4 players, just like in other mediums. He suggested companies should focus on real customers and real money rather than hope for acquisition by GYM. He thought security is going to be a big issue in a broader sense of the word.

Stuck between the two was Trumba‘s founder Jeremy Jaech who concurred with Mark that the best seats along the river of money are already taken and it is hard to make money from advertising. They toyed with the idea initially but soon moved to creating value through traditional means – selling to the enterprise.

In terms of new things coming, everyone agreed, mobile is the place to be and Seattle is the mecca for mobile innovation. Mobile as a pay device and collaborative software apps are things to watch for.

It was a great panel discussion with good provocative discussion.

Back to my panels.

The two wireless panels were:

Funding Pitch – Morning Panel


Reed Thorkildsen, Vice President of Technology and R&D, Infospace       Jodi Sherman Jahic, Principal, Voyager Capital
Adrian Smith, Principal, Ignition

Presenting Companies

Mixxer’s (CEO – John Dearborn) Mobilizer Widget allows users to share content, such as photos, across any U.S. wireless carrier. With just a click, people can send pictures, videos and even original music recordings to virtually any cell phone. Friends can turn pictures into wallpaper or watch funny videos on their mobile phone from anywhere, without having to log on to their computer. Mixxer also gives people the ability to “tweak” their Mobilizer Widget to better match the look and feel of their personal webpages.

Mobile Semiconductor Corporation (CEO – Cameron Fisher) is a design company dedicated to supplying a complete, differentiated, high-performance memory solution for smart phones and 4G video enabled handsets in the wireless market. Present memory elements of cell phones are comprised of numerous discrete components such as non-volatile Flash memory and volatile DRAM memory connected with multiple bus communication protocols. Mobile-Semi’s approach relies on a different architecture, combining these elements into a single memory system package containing multiple silicon layers that supply all internal memory requirements. The result is a small size form factor, greatly increased performance, and low power consumption.

Treemo (CEO – Brent Brookler) provides a Real Time Social Media Platform (SMP) that leverages the immediacy of mobile social media to consume, produce, manage and distribute user generated content of all types across multiple media including mobile and Web. The Treemo platform and technology is showcased on, a site that allows users to easily create personalized “channels” either via their PC, or through the mobile phone. The platform allows media to be embedded on external websites such as social networks, blogs and news sites, and it can also be skinned under a different brand as a white label solution.

and the Sales Pitch Panel – Afternoon Panel

Reed Thorkildsen, Vice President of Technology and R&D, Infospace       Robert Gary, Executive Director of Product Realization, AT&T
Steve Wood, Chairman, SinglePoint

Presenting Companies

Ontela (Director – Mike Acuri), Inc. provides technology infrastructure to wireless carriers. Ontela’s service delivers camera phone photos instantly to consumers’ PCs and favorite Web sites as soon as the image is taken. Ontela’s PicDeck platform enables wireless carriers and Image Service Vendors (ISVs) to deliver new image applications to their customers. The PicDeck technology automatically delivers every picture taken on a camera phone to the user’s PC and favorite imaging Web sites while remaining invisible to the user. Ontela licenses its services to wireless carriers, enabling them to monetize their networks and relationships with ISVs – Ontela does not provide its technology directly to consumers.

Perlego Systems (COO – Todd Ostrander) provides hosted, on-demand Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions allowing for the deployment, management, backup and restoration of mobile devices for the entire mobile value chain. Currently about 2M devices as install base.

ZenZui (Cofounder – John SanGiovanni) represents an entirely new way for consumers to discover and interact with the mobile web that is redefining the mobile advertising and marketing paradigm in the process. With ZenZui, your phone screen is a portal into your own customized Zoomspace, an information landscape of personalized, cached content presented in a compelling, easy-to-use, interactive visual interface. ZenZui’s core technology brings advanced information visualization techniques out of the research lab, onto mobile phones, and into the hands of mobile operators, marketers and consumers. ZenZui’s high-frame rate zooming user interface employs up to 36 individual Tiles that are selected and customized by the user to reflect their interests and lifestyle with relevant content, interactive communications, and fresh data. From the connected communities of social networks, and the latest sports and weather info, to the fun and immediacy of pop culture, and much more – this modular Tile interface lets users sync, surf, and share digital content quickly, easily, and in a totally new way.

Each presenting company had 10 minutes to pitch, 10 min for panel/judge Q&A and then some time for follow-up questions and feedback to the companies. It is not easy to cram all you want to say in 10 minutes but i guess that’s the test especially if you are pitching to the VCs.

The three panelists and I as a moderator got to rate the company on company’s management team and idea, market potential, and product features. One company won each category and there was also a grand prize for overall presenting company (there were two other presentation tracks – Web Services/Software and Digital Media, so total of 6 tracks).

Mobile Semiconductor won in the morning panel and Zenzui wowed us in the second one. Zenzui also won the overall prize for the best presenting company. I will be talking more to John and the management team in the coming days and will report back. I have been bullish on the concept of piecing together different pieces of content (mashups and widgets) coming into a single UI experience. Zenzui is a good incarnation of that philosophy and these guys know their stuff, really well.

With John SanGiovanni

Larry Orr, Managing GP of Trinity Ventures gave the luncheon keynote and went into some detail about his love for Seattle companies, discussed Starbucks, BlueNile, and Wall Data at length and did a Letterman like top 10 number on “Top 10 reasons to invest in Seattle: A Silicon valley perspective”

Overall, it was great to moderate panels with great panelists and presenting companies and mingle with who’s who of Seattle venture community and passionate entrepreneurs including James Sun of Zoodango (the apprentice guy). Seattle remains the hotbed of mobile and new technologies emerging from the shadows of the giants.