Mountain View Voice

News - June 4, 2010

Startups in the spotlight

Launch Silicon Valley gives investors a look at new ventures

by Angela Hey

Next week The Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs, along with co-sponsors Microsoft and GarageTechnology Ventures, puts on its fifth Launch Silicon Valley conference at Microsoft's Mountain View campus.

Startup companies give demos and present their business plan to a panel of venture investors, who then critique them. This year, almost 400 companies applied to give presentations. Just 30 were chosen. The audience, consisting of entrepreneurs, lawyers, consultants, investors and press, votes for the companies that are most likely to succeed.

"Launch Silicon Valley provides a gathering ground for entrepreneurs to feel welcome in the community," says Warren Packard, a venture capitalist from Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

I first attended Launch Silicon Valley in 2007, and looking back on the entries from that event, about half of the companies are thriving. D.light sells solar-powered LED lanterns to replace dangerous kerosene lamps in impoverished villages, changing the lifestyles of over a million people. If you need a solar lantern for a camping trip, you can buy d.light's Kiran lamp online. MyShape's website, myshape.com, suggests clothes for every occasion that fit your body shape. You can design your own jeans on the site.

Launch Silicon Valley 2010 showcases companies from clean tech, information technology, social networking, video games, healthcare and telecom. Mountain View's Green Platform Corporation spans the clean tech/IT space. It is making data center racks from carbon fiber composites to minimize vibrations. Computers and disk drives in data centers are stacked on metal racks that vibrate. Vibrations can come from cooling fans, air conditioning, trucks passing by and background noise. When disk drives vibrate they slow down. With Green Platform's racks, disk drives run faster, shortening compute times, which saves energy.

If you're a bike rider you've probably noticed that carbon fiber forks give you a smoother ride than metal forks. I'd be interested to hear if readers who play loud rock music find that their disk drives slow down when their computers feel the music, especially if they are on metal tables in bars.

Digital Sun has sensors that attach to standard sprinkler controllers to help you save water. The list price is about $200. My water bill is about $60/month higher when I water the garden for five months of the year. If Digital Sun's system saves 1/3rd of my watering costs, I'll get my money back in two years.

For games and social networks, you can make a moving image of yourself from a photo, using Evolver software from Darwin Dimensions. The image can be a really simple animated GIF image of you bowing, running or dancing that reads on almost any browser. More sophisticated formats are also available for the serious gamer.

Retailers can add a line of code to their website from Social Amp's Wish.it.com site that allows customers to tell them what they would like to see stocked in their store. The wished-for item can then be spread to Facebook friends and other social networking sites, like Twitter. Vizibility.com is testing a search button that you can put on a website that helps people search for you on the web with a single "SearchMe" button. It looks up your profile on job sites, social networks and websites.

In the medical area, ScanAvert has a mobile phone app that scans barcodes and tells you what foods to avoid if you have allergies or digestive problems. STI-Medical from Hawaii has a new imaging system to detect cancers.

Launch Silicon Valley has some really innovative companies this year and it's good to see a Mountain View company, Green Platform, in this year's line up.

Angela Hey can be contacted at amhey@techviser.com and followed on Twitter at amhey.

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