I spent the day yesterday down at the Under the Radar conference in Mountain View. Awesome job once again by the organizers, who managed to pull together plenty of interesting companies I wasn’t yet familiar with and a great set of judges. I reconnected with a bunch of people I haven’t seen in a long time too, so awesome day all around.
For the tracks that I was in, there seemed to be a strong preference from the judges for plays that take existing content and either get it up online and involved in interactions, or drive the interactions down to a more granular level. Some examples:
- Foodspotting won the pitch session in the morning with their tagline “find dishes instead of restaurants”. This is a good example of both driving down to a more granular level. Instead of reviewing the restaurant overall users review individual menu items. As well as ways to put additional granular information online. Food review sites or travel shows like No Reservations can use Foodspotting as a platform for featuring their content, getting a lot more usage out of that info than simply leaving it on the site for the show. Instead they get it in front of a user when they’re actually looking for something to eat.
- DataPop is another one that the judges loved, and is an example of making online interaction more granular and taking additional content online. Their example of typical engagement is taking a bunch of offers normally distributed offline and making them more effectively targeted for online use. Offers that normally go out through a circular or set of direct mailings frequently get put online as well. However the ads created to go along with the offers and the landing pages the offers drive to aren’t optimized for conversion. And for the folks who do try to customize the process is very time intensive and the humans in the loop frequently don’t have the right info to optimize. So DataPop combines automation and a base of info representing accumulated knowledge of search behavior and response rates to automate the generation of optimized ads and landing pages. Anyone who’s worked in online advertising or marketing knows the value there.
- Goodzer took away top honors from the show, everyone absolutely loved it. The main claim is that they have a crawler that can identify retailers online, locate them, identify the products they offer, and even pull inventory levels for those items. They claim they can do it completely generically for all product anywhere. That’s a bold claim. And even if we assume the technology itself is completely solid, we have to make some additional assumptions like the retailer keeping their product list up to date and their inventory levels current. However, if their claims are anywhere near accurate (and we can’t validate that cause they’re not publicly available yet) it would be a great win for local commerce. There are plenty of services that do online comparison shopping, but there doesn’t seem to be much out there that ties individual products to physical locations, useful if I want to go out and get whatever I’m looking for right now.
There were lots of social networking plays there too, marketing platforms aimed at collecting additional information about connections, ways to aggregate and drive fans with targeted offers, etc. Generally those didn’t really resonate with the judges. I think it’s because the judges generally came from large companies who have the resources necessary to build out their own platforms if they see value in collecting additional information or engaging with their users in new ways. Some of the platforms could be of real use to small and medium businesses, but then the questions generally swap over to how the business plans to reach all those businesses (it’s traditionally costly and time consuming).
Interesting trend to see in the judging. With the economy as a whole still in a questionable state, and online marketing doing okay after a period with some serious rough spots, I was wondering if the big marketers would be looking to be more conservative with their spends and trying to get more effectiveness out of their existing channels. Or if they’re looking for new channels and more inventory. My takeaway was that it’s very much the latter. Not that they don’t care about being efficient. There are just enough folks already providing optimization, that market is served. New avenues and approaches are what everyone seems to be focused on.