This afternoon at Supernova thirteen companies selected by TechCrunch and Supernova, from 130 applicants, presented at the Connected Innovators Session. The companies presented to a panel of experts including Mike Arrington from TechCrunch, Josh Kopelman from First Round Capital and Julie Hanna Farris - a serial entrepreneur. The panel held all of their feedback until the end of all the presentations.

Company Presentation

What follows are brief summaries of each of the presentations:

adap.tv

As everyone is aware, the way individuals are engaging with video content is changing from broadcast to a more interactive model. Adap.tv is focused on enabling an advertising model to work with this shift. The presentation included a demo where multiple contextual ads were pulled from their inventory of "over 1 million ads." The video was about a newly released movie and the ads were for renting that movie on Netflicks and purchasing it on Amazon. After the presentation I talked to Amir (CEO and Founder) and I discovered that the ads are primarily served from ad networks and affiliate networks. While this makes the size of their network less impressive, what is great is that they have found a creative way to display text ads in videos. As Google has proven, text ads do make it easier to tap into the 'long tail' of advertising.

AdaptiveBlue

AdaptiveBlue is a product that takes a little bit of time to grok, but I think it is ultimately on the way to bringing the semantic web to reality. What is great about both of AdaptiveBlue's products (Blue Organizer and Smart Link) is they have really done a great job of delivering value to each individual user, while also harvesting meta-data that their system can leverage for their other products. This ultimately creates a great network effect. [disclosure: CEO Alex Iskold is a R/WW writer]

Aggregate Knowledge

Aggregate Knowledge was probably the most mature company out of the group of connected innovators. They are currently powering discovery for over 50 million users each month. Paul Martino, CEO, referred to this as the "world's largest implicit social network." They do this for both editorial content and product recommendations.

CastTV

CastTV is focused on improving the experience of searching for video content. They started by doing a search on Google Video for "CSI TV" and then repeating the experience on their beta site. While obviously this was a rehearsed demo, the results were actually quite impressive. They explained that these results were because of their focus on two aspects that are very unique about video search:

  1. Crawling and Indexing
  2. Relevancy and Ranking Algorithms

Critical Metrics

Critical Metrics is a music recommendation service built around aggregating reviews from music sites across the web and automating the process of purchasing that music. You can easily purchase or stream the music from services like iTunes, Rhapsody and Real Player. This is a very interesting example of music hyperaggregation, similar to my review of Internet Video Hyperaggregation a few months ago.

Jangl

Jangl has developed a secure way for users to communicate withe each other in context. The goal of the site is to ultimately build 'the world's largest people directory.' They started working with dating sites like Match.com, enabling secure communications between potential matches. They expanded this to work with a number of social networks.

Pando Networks

Pando Networks originally was a P2P client that was a simple option to share large files between people. They've had over 8 million people download the client to share files. Today, they announced they are releasing a publishing platform for sharing video content. They will create a white-label solution for publishers who are interested in delivering a client for streaming their content. They launched today with Blip.tv, Rever, and NextNewNetworks.

SodaHead

SodaHead was founded by Jason Feffer, formerly the VP of Operations at MySpace. According to Jason, one of the most popular features on MySpace was the ability to conduct polls within your network. Therefore, after leaving MySpace he has focused on trying to create a great polling infrastructure. They have a destination site as well as a set of widgets.

Spock

Spock is a search engine focused on the vertical of finding people. It seems like Spock has been in a private beta for months. The demo was almost identical to the one they did at the Web 2.0 Expo. In the demo they searched for Venture Capitalists and Bloggers and returned some of the panelists (Mike Arrington and Josh Kopelman). While it certainly looks impressive, the challenge will be when individuals are slightly less famous then those they returned in today's demo.

Wize

Wize is focused on improving the product recommendation process. The are trying to establish a new score (Wize Rank) that aggregates multiple reviews. Wize positions this as the 'consumer reports rank of the future.'

ZapMeals (Fake Company)

The company was billed as an 'ebay for meals.' After the presentation, the audience was informed that one of the thirteen companies was a fake. The audience was then asked to vote which startup pitch was actually fake. The majority of the audience voted correctly for ZapMeals. I'm not sure how well this will translate in this post, but it was actually quite fun.

ZenZui

ZenZui has developed a unique approach to syndicating content on mobile phones. In addition, they have built a navigation system built on 'tiles', that allows the user to navigate exclusively built on the numeric keyboard. In other words, some numeric keys are used for navigation while others are used to select content. See Read/WriteWeb's earlier profile of ZenZui.

Zing

Zing has partnered with device manufacturers to 'un-tether their mobile devices.' In other words, they have an application that device manufactures can OEM to allow users of those devices to stream and download content (music and images) to their mobile devices.

Conclusion

The panel had a number of observations. The two that I found particularly interesting were:

  • The number of companies that are focused on improving the experience of using a mobile device
  • The number of companies focused on vertical search problems

Both of these are markets that are definitely heating up.

There also was an interesting discussion about which companies would be most likely to reach a "major liquidity event." Mike predicted that Aggregate Knowledge and Cast.tv will. Josh is an investor in Aggregate Knowledge, but he also pointed to Pando and Adap.tv. He noted that Adap.tv plays in a large and interesting space (and disclosed that he is an investor in another company in the space.) Julie liked Spock and Wize, because they "solve a real problem I have." Personally, I was most impressed with Adaptive Blue and Adapt.tv. However, the fun thing about seeing companies this early is that we'll get to see how these entrepreneurs adapt to the marketplace and their customers.

What do you think? Which companies look most promising to you?