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Supernova: Connected Innovators

This afternoon at Supernova thirteen companies selected by TechCrunch and Supernova,
from 130 applicants, presented at the Connected Innovators
. 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

Company Presentation

What follows are brief summaries of each of the presentations:


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.


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 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

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 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


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 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 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


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


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.


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

  • 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?

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