Earlier this month I headed down to San Antonio to watch eleven start-up companies present the results of their 3 months spent at the start-up accelerator, Techstars Cloud.
Techstars is one of a variety of programs set up to accelerate start-ups using investment and mentoring. In return they take a small portion of the company. Techstars Cloud happened to be focused on a group of companies all who were trying to do "cloud" solutions, with San Antonio being the perfect location as that's where Rackspace is.
I've been working with a number of small start-ups here in town, one a Y Combinator graduate, TrustEgg, was started in part by one of my former engineers at Sonic Foundry, Gabe Krambs. Gabe is one of those super talented guys who I always knew I was lucky to have around. Then last winter I had the opportunity to meet one of the founders of VidMaker, Dale Emmons, a former Sony employee had been working with his buddies Ryan and Yuri to build video editing for the cloud. At that time they were waiting to hear from Techstars. It wasn't but a couple weeks later and they were off to San Antonio. So 6 weeks ago when they asked me if I'd like to come down and watch them present on their demo day I jumped at the chance.
First let me get snarky for a second...After a pleasant evening in San Antonio, including drinks with the VidMaker guys, I headed to the presentation in the morning. Now I've practiced yoga for some time and one thing that's always struck me
is how unaware of personal space sweaty yogis tend to be. But I'll tell
you they have absolutely nothing on tech geeks. Just try to navigate
yourself through a crowded group of tech boys half of which are wearing
backpacks bigger than a guy headed up Mt. Everest. I mean seriously what is in those packs? I thought this was Techstars "Cloud" not Techstars "I've got a rack of servers and my tennis shoes strapped to my back".
The presentations by the 11 companies were limited to about 5 minutes each and were extremely polished. The VidMaker presentation was particularly well received, partly due to the recent Instagram acquisition, and also because they were the one business model that the layperson could wrap their head around. The other 10 were definitely more technical and aimed at people who are looking for SaaS solutions.
appsembler - A pretty cool concept for developers who are looking for easy hosting, billing, support and deployment of software as a service products. I had a chance to talk with Nate Aune at the After Party. He's a sharp guy and he hooked me up with the early beta. This is a product that could save a lot of time for small SaaS developers who don't want to be bogged down with all the backend maintenance costs.
cloudability - monitors and manages spending by companies on their cloud services. These guys had a killer presentation wrapped up by announcing that every Rackspace customer got a free cloudability account. They are solving a serious pain point for many companies and are going to do well.
cloudsnap - provides middlewear that allows you to connect web apps together without having to know about underlying api's. They provide a web interface that basically says whenever new data is added to this web application, take it, massage it, and send it over to this other web application. I had a chance to talk with their CEO about how they were adding to their supported application list. In order to maintain quality they're doing all the coding which is understandable. Eventually as they expand they may be able to have a 3rd party api that would let companies define their data input and outputs. This would've been nice back when I was working on Mediasite. If we'd been able to provide an adapter to cloudsnap it would've been trivial for us to move data in and out of Salesforce whenever someone engaged with a Mediasite presentation.
Tempo - provides the ability to save tons of time log data in the cloud. Think things like temperature sensors and other devices that log tens, hundreds, or even thousands of data points a minute. I spent a lot of time talking with Andrew their CEO at the After Party. They were all heading back to Chicago right after that to keep working on their company. He had a lot of good insight on the companies there and I hope to spend some time at their space in Chicago in the next few months.
VidMaker - The Madison guys who are going to take the world by storm with collaborative video editing. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about them from me over the coming months. They're back in town and probably hiring.
Lastly while I was out there I met the head of the collaborative workspace Geekdom. This is a pretty cool idea. People coming together in a communal space to help each other build cool things. I found myself thinking I need to find a place like that where I can hang my hat.... (foreshadowing)
Oh and I almost forgot.. these enterprising engineers decided to start some kind of new booze.. met them at the party as well.. it was a little sweet but they said they're working on it...drinkupsmart