Hack and frogs

stories from a frog eater in the tech world

What I Saw at Minnedemo

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I am two weeks late but as the idiom says : “better late than never”. I would like to write about what I saw during the last Minnedemo on the 13th of January. Like this I am also inaugurating my first blog post in english \o/

MinneDemo logo

For those who don’t know, Minnedemo is a conference where local startups from Minnesota present their products. They present it without any slides. That is where the strength of this conference is : demo only, no Powerpoint and blabla.

This time Minnedemo took place at Business University of St. Thomas in downtown Minneapolis. There were more than 300 attendees. Tickets sold out extremely quickly. I was luckyto have one. I reserved mine the day they announced the conference.

For sure Minnedemo was the place to be on the 13th of January. Many of the famous investors and entrepreneurs of the Twin Cities were there. It was a great opportunity to do some networking. For me, it was harder than during the StartupWeekend in November because it seemed like everybody knew each other, so it was harder to break the ice. But speaking about the quality of the buffet is always a good line to start a conversation :)

I won’t write in detail about each demo but just about my top 3 Sophia, Inveni and EventBurn.

Sophia is a new way to study online. The founders think that everybody can be a teacher, because we all know something. Based on this concept you will have the ability to create a class to explain something you understood. Let’s say you want to explain the Monte-Carlo’s method to compute an integral. In this class you will be able to add images, schemas or videos. Like this you can have an interactive course and not just a simple formula. It could be very useful if you don’t understand what your prof says in class, you may find another way to understand it in Sophia.

How to be sure that the lesson is scientifically true ? Sophia’s community is formed of students and experts. They have the ability to rate an article and suggest some improvements to the author. After a certain number of reviews by experts, the article will be certified. One of the advantage of Sophia is that you can ask the author questions on a kind of forum. So it is a mix between Wikipedia and Moodle, with a better interface and better user interaction. Sophia is still in beta but we should keep an eye on this startup :)

Inveni is a recommendation service for movies and TV shows. It will tell you what you should watch based on what you like. The concept was well summarized by its CEO : “We find you good crap and make sure you don’t watch crap”. I tried Inveni few days after Minnedemo. During the sign-up process it will ask you your top 5 movies, so you better know that top 5 before starting. I did not, I was just thinking of cartoons like Wall-E, Ice Age or Toy Story. Then it asks you to rate some movies if you already saw them. Because of my previous choice it asked me to rate all the episodes of Harry Potter. It was a bit strange to be assimilated with a HP’s fan. I watched the first one and slept during the 7th… You can spend hours rating all the movies it suggests you, I stopped after 40. It recommended cartoons for me… So I should rate other kind of movies if I really want a better suggestion.

One of the interesting features is the possibility to scan your Facebook, Twitter, Netflix or Rotten Tomatoes account and see what you said about movies you saw. So be careful when you want to be nice with your girlfriend with FB status like “So nice to watch Love Actually with you” when you like movies like American Pie, because Inveni will suggest you love movie :)

You also can have friends and see what they like, and what you may like in their list. It is possible for example to suggest a movie to a friend. Inveni is an interesting product with a strong algorithm and a nice interface. Unfortunately it does not include (yet ?) French movies, and I watch a lot of French movies. Plus I prefer to choose movies more spontaneously.

But I think we will hear about them very soon :) Recommendation websites are the current fashion on social networks.

The third demo that seduced me was EventBurn’s. It is a service for event organizers who would like to watch what people say about this event on social networks. It will give you the top link shared on Twitter or Facebook, or pictures on Flickr. You will also be able to see which user was the most active on Twitter, which tweet was retweeted the most and what the keywords were used. It is a good and a simple way to monitor the virtual identity of your event.

They made a special page for Minnedemo. I had the surprise to see that I was one of the most active user on Twitter :) EventBurn is still in beta test so they have a special $10/year offer for early adopters. Because I like the principle and I like the idea that being a beta-tester I signed up. Now I have a special page to follow my “personal brand” with my name and surname. I will see what the results will be.

EventBurn could be an interesting product to aggregate social network activity about your event. Plus the team is very friendly and open :)

It was a very nice conference for me and I am looking forward attending to the next one. I will attend to the next TechCocktail in DC on the 2nd of February =)

Videos of all the demos : http://tech.mn/news/2011/01/14/minnedemo-winter-2011/

Report in French

Special Thanks to Kirsten Pertersen (St. Olaf 2011) who helped with english grammar