The Y Combinator incubator hosted its ninth open demo meet-up today. Fifteen companies presented, most showing off not just strong technologies and concepts, but realistic business models. Here are the highlights of the six best companies (in my opinion), as well as two with good technologies but troubling business models.
Probably the most popular demo company at the event was Wattvision (site not live yet), which is making a whole-house real-time energy-monitoring system. The key is its hardware: a gizmo you literally stick on to your electricity meter that watches the little wheel turn around. The data is transmitted to a computer in your home, or via Wi-Fi to your router and then back to the Wattvision servers, where it's then packaged and delivered to you every 15 seconds, via a Web page or iPhone app. You can see your momentary energy cost with this service, and that's cool. Wattvision doesn't give you granular data: it's whole-house only. There are other issues with this service, but it looks like something that people will instantly understand and want--because you can see in a heartbeat that it will help you save money.
Foodoro is launching an "Etsy of food:" a marketplace that helps consumers and boutique food sellers connect to each other. The market for food and for food gifts is strong, and supports a large community of small specialty food manufacturers. However, the traditional multi-tier distribution channels absorb a lot of the manufacturers' revenues, as well as separating them from their end consumers. Foodoro, while it's a middleman for the transaction part of the sale, does not ship food itself nor hide the customer from the vendor, enabling, the founders believe, better relationships where they count. The company also has a smart widget strategy: There are affiliate widgets that bloggers can put on their sites to promote the food items they like. They get a cut of the sales that Foodoro then manages, but again, Foodoro connects the manufacturer and the consumer directly for delivery of the items. Foodoro could potentially impact the traditional food catalog businesses.
Voxli is a super-simple voice chat product for games that works via a browser plug-in (with a push-to-talk hot key that punches through to whatever game you're using). If you want to set up a team chat room, you just go to the site, name your room, get a URL, and send it to your teammates. Pricing will be $60 per account per year, and an account holder will be able to invite up to 200 people into a room. It's in free beta right now. I think the proposed price is a bit high, but the potential market is very large. … Read more