I was a grand jury judge for my buddy Jason's LAUNCH conference in San Francisco last week. There are two kinds of LAUNCH judges: celebrity judges who spend a half day on stage judging live presentations and the grand jury kind that watch all of the presentations and then pick winners for LAUNCH awards. I was one of the working judges.
There were three groups of presenting startups. 1.0 companies were all companies launching for the first time. 2.0 companies were announcing a new product. LAUNCH Pad companies were not scheduled to present on stage. They rented tables and tried to catch the attention of people passing by for a quick demo. If they caught the attention of a judge, they could be nominated to actually spend three minutes on stage pitching their product.
From the LAUNCH Pad companies, I picked an Amazon cloud-hosted GoToMeeting/Webex competitor called MeetingBurner. Not surprisingly, Joyent CEO David Young told them they were using the wrong cloud. That never gets old, right? LAUNCH Pad winners included GreenGoose, whose wireless sensors can track daily activity, and fluidinfo, an openly writable shared meta data service for everything. GreenGoose closed a $500K angel round that Friday and fluidinfo was voted "most likely to need Crowd Fusion as an interface."
In the 2.0 group, Disconnect won for best technology. It's a browser plugin that monitors how much of your personal data is being shared with third party sites, like what gets sent to Facebook when you're visiting ESPN. I spent some time with Disconnect's genius creator Brian Kennish on Friday and told him I hoped Disconnect would fail so I could hire him. Seriously!
Some of the 1.0 winners were Room77 (best overall, see the view from your hotel room before you book it), NeuAer (best tech, automate your digital life) and Cabana (best design, a Photoshop/Pipes-style interface for making apps without coding). The NeuAer example that really stuck with me was how you can script your devices so that every time you turn your car off, your smartphone can drop a map pin so you don't have to remember where you parked. Very slick.
All of the winners are listed on the LAUNCH blog. Between the 1.0, 2.0 and LAUNCH Page companies there were 140 great companies competing for 13 awards. What a fantastic event.