Mentoring TechStars Cloud

Led by Jason Seats, with lots of help from Nicole Glaros, TechStars Cloud ran from January - April in San Antonio, Texas. Here's a first time mentor viewpoint.

The point of the Cloud variation on TechStars' usual model was to focus on infrastructure - companies building the underpinings of the ecosystem which supports consumer oriented apps, and companies building functionality for enterprises. It has the usual 13 week format. There was also an intent to bring startup companies at least temporarily to San Antonio to see if any of them wanted to stay put afterwards.


On the Riverwalk, where it meets E Pecan St. Techstars had office space in the Weston Centre opposite.

The sucessful applicants were companies building a mixture of tools for creating and manipulating APIs, for data analytics, for video editing, and for understanding your cloud spending. Cloudablity was the most advanced, having taken a seed round after its launch in June 2011 - some of the other groups had just formed companies in order to take initial $118,000 investment which is offerred to each succesful applicants.

In the second week of the accelerator, there's a sort of speed dating day, where mentors go through 30 - 45 minutes session with each of the companies whom they think are interesting and which have asked to see them. At the end of the 4th week companies pick which of the mentors they want to work with - mentors are expected to pick one company and focus on it. Cloudability picked me. I'd expected a team to form among the mentors, but mostly the companies dealt with one mentor at a time - they learned to pick and choose advice. Towards the end of the 13 weeks, more of the companies I'd met contacted me, so I ended up advising four of the eleven, mostly by email, with occasional conference calls. During the run up to and on the day of the final review I was in England, so missed going back to San Antonio to attend Demo Day in person. I did review the videos of the pitches: there was a huge improvement over the three months in both content and presentation style from all the companies.
At this point (July 2012) almost every company has additional finance in place, and a much better idea about their target market and prospective customers than they had in January. I learned a lot about how a good accelerator is run (this was the first TechStars Cloud, but it benefitted hugely from the about 15 programs which preceded it).

Now I'm mentoring at Alchemist, much closer to home in Menlo Park, and planning to mentor another Cloud next January.

Gigaom review of demo day
TechStars for a Day introduction
Outcomes and statistics
Alchemist accelerator
TechStars background and future trends

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Modelling public relations

Having been involved with assorted PR for small and large companies, here's a model I use for thinking about how and when to do what.

First, there is a lot of background noise, and if you go to the trouble of crafting a story about something you'd like strangers as well as your friends to read, then you need enough signal to stick out of the noise.

Expand this a little to a 3D surface metaphor, over which you and your audience is travelling in time. Events are hills - some of these are predictable, like trade shows and holidays, some are not, like weather events and acquisitions. Looking back, they perturb the landscape, with the size of the hill and the slope of its sides representing the volume and trend rate of the commentary about and around the event.


image from Matlab

Each of your audiences is starting from a different place on the surface, whether existing customers, prospects, existing employees, future candidates, existing and potential investors, or politicians. Tailoring your content, the distribution of that content, and the release timing is an effort to get your story to form a noticeable hill in the path of that audience. Each of those audiences will also look back in time (will search for relevant material); including the right terms improves your visibility from some future time looking back.

While planning for a release, remember to account for internal review time - to improve the quality, to check for legal issues, to include other parties mentioned or likely to be influenced by the release.

Lastly, proof read! People won't notice correct spelling and good grammar, but they will mark you down heavily for uncorrected mistakes.

Getting attention for a blog post
Recipe for a blog post
Contact lists for tech reporters

How your data gets used

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Getting started in Silicon Valley

Several weeks back, I talked to a friend of a friend about getting started in the Valley. He has a software development company in Northen Italy, and was able to take a couple of months to stay in San Francisco to find out what it would take for him to move his company there. Here are some of the suggestions, generalized a little.

Mountain View taken from Airship Eureka (2010)

At least a couple of months before you arrive, find one or more contacts who are themselves well connected to startups and developers already in the Valley. In this case, the mutual contact was a family friend who moved from Italy 20 years ago. Ask them to make introductions for you so that you can exchange email ahead of time and set up meetings with some of them.

Look up the list of trade shows going on in Moscone Center - you don't have to sign up, but many thousands of people do, and they hang out in bars and restaurants in that area of town, so you can get a sense for what's going on in that business. If you are developing for Apple users, for example, there's WWDC; and a few days later there's a meetup for iOS developers.

If you can get into one of the accelerator programs, you get some money, but more importantly you get access to shared resources for most of the things that are essential, time consuming to understand, and not really your focus when building a company - accountancy, legal, sometimes office space,and mutual support from peers. See below for lists of accelerators - each of them describe their schedules (most often 13 weeks, several times a year) and competitive criteria for acceptance.

Read about Lean Startups - the google group for discussion is!forum/lean-startup-circle
Look for blogs from Eric Ries, Steve Blank, and Sean Murphy

Ask for a frank opinion about the quality of your English. It doesn't need to be perfect, but Americans are bad, in general, at listening to non-native speakers - the better your English is, the more effective you can be. One thing which will help is if you can write a blog; aim to post every day, even if it's only a few sentences at a time. Your audience is people like you, who wish they could spend a summer in San Francisco learning how to get a company started here.

Your blog, your Twitter presence, and your LinkedIn page are important - get them organized ahead of time, so that the people to whom your contacts are introducing you will get a positive sense that you are doing interesting stuff from which they might learn (and so whether they will take time to drink coffee and share experiences).

Twitter people - here's a selection from the people I follow, with a little bit of explanation. Look at whom they follow, too, and pick some of them (use what they post and their profiles to guide your choices). Reply to posts if you have anything constructive to say - this builds your own publicly available profile.

@Venturehacks - Angel List founder
@dorkitude founder They just completed Techstars Cloud and raised a seed round.
@stormental co-founder @cloudability Techstars Cloud
@rodolfor founder at @Storybricks
@kotikan - mobile app development agency in Edinburgh
@500 500 Startups (Dave McClure)
@springboardnews - accelerator program in London and Cambridge, England
@techstars - @davetisch, @nglaros
@timburks - runs iOS developers meetup in the Valley
@scobleizer - high volume, interviews interesting new startups (works for Rackspace)
@bfeld - founder Techstars, VC at Foundry
@avc - Fred Wilson, VC at Union Square
@skmurphy - see Lean Startups, above
@ycombinator - accelerator
@gezbrady - supports startups for Silicon Valley Bank
@borthwick - CEO Betaworks. Very interesting business investing in media properties including
@sgblank - Steve Blank
@martenmickos - Finn moved to Silicon Valley
@msuster - blog Both sides of the table - VC at GRP Partners - read the blog too

iOS developers meetup
Incubator locator page
Accelerators and Incubators - my posts with lists, EU as well as US

If you have additional suggestions, let me know at

Big Data - 21 companies selected by SVB

Silicon Valley Bank put together an event reviewing companies with less than $5m in revenue, in the big data and analytics space. In-Q-Tel were the sponsor; the audience included senior people from Siemens, Intuit, HP, Autonomy (an HP company), Northrop Grumman, GE, Standard Chartered Bank, IBM, Splunk, Google, NEA, Hummer Winblad, USVP and Jafco Ventures.

After the introductions, the format was 3 sets of 7 companies, presenting for 7 minutes each. After each set there was a break, at which the audience was encouraged to find the presenters to ask questions. The quality of the presentations wasn't uniform, but it was at least as good as the IBM global smartcamp event I mentored earlier in the year - which says volumes about the pre event coaching which must have been applied by Gerald Brady (SVB) and his team.

Most worth attention: NuoDB for the 'elastic' promise; Kaggle for the game approach; Full Contact for people background; Cloudant for database virtualization.

Dave Feinleib's graphic sorts topics; most of these people could actually do most of the other things, but this does reflect their current postitioning.


Notes on the companies

Sumo Logic Log management - think syslog for everything that emits status, in private or public cloud, with reporting and analytics front end.
$15M in Series B funding in Jan 2012 Mountain View, CA

Platfora Hadoop for non specialists in large enterprises - making big data useable without Map Reduce.
$7.2m Series A Oct 2011 San Mateo, CA

Placed Location analytics anchored on lat/long positions. Reminded me of Palmap (Shanghai).
$3.4m seed round April 2012 Seattle, WA
NuoDB Grand claims for a new database architecture - scalable,geo-distributed, elastic, SQL/ACID -compliant, shared nothing, asynchronous, peer-to-peer .. this is Jim Starkey's (Datatrieve, InterBase) latest vehicle for improving relational databases.
$10m venture round, April 2012 Cambridge, MA

Metamarkets Data science as a service -trend analysis, spotting anomalies in big data volumes, at speed. Their blog gives a better idea of what they do than their CEO did.
$15m Series B April 2012 San Francisco, CA

MemSQL Gigaom's description
Converts SQL to C++ and re-use for subsequent queries, lock-free, in memory to get sub millisecond response times.
$5.1m seed, June 2012 San Francisco, CA

Lucid Imagination Private or public cloud search - 24x7 support for open source Apache
Lucene/Solr search, analytics, big data
$16m Venture, October 2010 Redwood City, CA

Tempo DB Techstars Cloud alumni. Customized time series database as a service for sensor data.
$750K seed May 2012 Chicago, IL

Kaggle Host competitions for data scientists - make existing data available in public to find and qualify scientist, then in private to specific scentists. Competition shows stages of improvement in application of algorithms.
$11m series A Nov 2011 San Francisco, CA

Integrate Advertizing support, ad spend optimization
$11m March 2011 Scotsdale, AZ

InsightsOne Predictive analytics. Real time multichannel user offer matching.
$4.3m venture March 2012 Santa Clara, CA

Huddle Enterprise and government content collaboration platform - big wins in UK, just launching into US.
$24m May 2012 London and San Francisco, CA

Hadapt Add RDBMS to Hadoop nodes so existing SQL tools work. Adaptive analytics platform.
$9.5m series A Oct 2011 Cambridge, MA

Full Contact Impressive, and scary if they can do what they claim. Take partial information about an individual, clean it up and correlate by collecting what they've put out on the net over time. Social profiles, too.
$1.5m series A Denver, CO

Delphix Support developers where lots of copies of the same DB get used. Database virtualization. This is a real problem, and they cite real numbers for money saved and productivity improved.
$25m series C Palo Alto, CA

DataStax Enterprise services and platform using Apache Cassandra open source database.
$11m series B San Mateo, CA

Cloudant Low latency on small low power devices, by getting big data on or close to its consumers. Has 18 data centres worldwide. Data replication and sync using NoSQL database monthly service.
$2m venture round Dec 11 Boston, MA

Bottlenose Low cost real time analytics - see what's trending - process 3000 messages/second - browser frontend.
seed investment (no numbers given) Raising round in 2012

Birst Automating supply chain for low volume high value data. Easy to use business anayltics.
$26m May 2011 series D San Francisco, CA

Apigee API technology and services, for making data available and understanding how it is used.
$14.1m Jan 2010 Palo Alto, CA

Agilone Predictive marketing intelligence. "maximize customer lifetime value at the optimal marketing spend"
Sequoia Capital invested, no numbers given. Mountain View, CA

10gen Commercial support and development for open source MongoDB. Used as an Oracle replacement, gain scability, agility, productivity for developers.
$42m series E May 2012 New York, NY and Palo Alto, CA

Several people were interested in Techstars; TempoDB just emerged from the Techstars Cloud program, which I mentored. Links below for more background - there's another blog post to come on that topic, too.

Investment numbers and dates from Cruchbase
The book about the companies
Techstars - see Techstars Cloud, and
IBM global smartcamp final
Forbes graphic - Dave Feinleib
Another broader chart of the landscape

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Technology for and in vehicles

Last week Silicon Valley Bank saw a lot of me - two afternoons in a row at events they sponsored.

The 'Technology on the move' event in their Tasman Drive offices was worth the time. Good reviews of the silicon systems in cars from Simon Segars, ARM; and Taner Ozcelik, NVIDIA. Their components are used not just for entertainment and navigation, but also for instrument cluster replacement (the 'glass cockpit') and crash and engine simulation systems. NVIDIA's parts are in more than 100 models of car, and ARM's in very many more.

A panel discussion about electric vehicles focused on what it would take to have EVs be the primary household vehicle. Better battery life and higher petrol prices are part of the story - so is an incentive for drivers to understand their actual day to day requirements, rather than needing to own a vehicle which is only used to its full capacity during a long summer vacation drive.

Mark Platshon, who set up BMW's venture fund, ran through a future scenario where his calender was connected to his car, enabling advance reservation of parking spots close to meeting locations and suggestions about proximity of colleagues, friends, and restaurants, to illustrate the sort of things in which i-Ventures is investing.

This wasn't discussed at the meeting - what I really want isn't so much a particular car as Transportation as a Service - being able to drive myself, or be driven, or take public transport, or have things delivered, as something for which I pay a subscription. All the technoloy to do this exists, but the APIs don't. It would take capital, and interaction with very disjoint transport providers - the Bay Area can't even operate a one ticket system for the different (and very poor) rail services. Expect something like this to emerge in one of the Scandinavian cities first.

Speakers and organizations listed here

"the work we do to build our cities directly drives the work we do to build our communities online." The importance of public traffic data - Anil Dash

Updated to add - Steve Jurvetson has the first Tesla Model S, and here are some more

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Nanog 55 - Vancouver June 2012

Didn't attend in person, did listen and watch most of the broadcast material. The quality of the broadcast received was noticably better than for previous Nanogs.

Moore's Law and Networking
Andy Bechtolscheim did the first morning keynote - he's good at presenting a lot of reasonably sophisticated technical material without obviously promoting Arista. If slides are posted, they will be on the agenda page.

Moore's Law will continue to hold through 2024 at least, and probably through 2031. It will soon be possible to buy flash memory chips with 1 terrabyte of capacity. Networking speeds have not kept up with either the increasing density of memory nor the increasing capability of CPUs. The bottleneck is in the offchip communications - throughput per device has increased about 10 times in 12 years.

Manufacturers have been using ASIC workflow for networking chip development - now there's sufficient demand for 10G ethernet components to justify custom design flows, laid out with a specific clock target. Expect reasonable pricing and volumes of 40GE components in 4 years, and 100GE in 8 years.

The other issue holding back mass adoption of 10GE has been the cost of the external optical connections to the fiber used for connecting top of rack switches to the aggregating routers. (Connections from servers to the ToR as short enough for copper). The original IEEE standards didn't support an inexpensive standard for the 100m - 300m distance. Silicon photonics on parallel single mode fiber is changing that - 12 duplex channels in 4.5mm, MTP/MPO multifiber connectors - expect parts commercially available in 2014.

For the 'best' performance, have to decide if the goal is minimising latency, or minimsing packet drops, and consider the details of the TCP stack(s) in use or available. Switching paths through single chips using SRAM minimise latency; chips using less expensive off chip DRAM can have much bigger buffers.

Microsoft datacenter design
Using BGP as an IGP allows for much wider scale out, more reliable operation, than using L2 MLAG. They have some requests for vendor support for specific BGP features :
AS_PATH Multipath Relax
Allow AS In
Fast eBGP Fall-over
Remove Private AS

Building a sustainable broadband network in the city of San Francisco
Tim Pozar described some of the politics and technology involved in having a non-profit build network using City fiber with City oversight. It's still work in progress and they'd like more help.

Software defined WAN at Google
As one of the lightning talks, Ed Crabbe, who talked about Google's use of Openflow at the last Nanog, presented a short form of the talk Urs Hoelzle gave at ONS. They use their own hardware routers, run a minimal embedded OS on them, including BGP and ISIS from Quagga. There is a global broker/scheduler, non standard transport protocols, demand is tailored to be deterministic.

There was a lighting talk, then a full presentation, about the possible consequences of the ITU deliberation due to take place in December 2012. The Internet as it currently operates has many cross border collaborations in place. Proposals from country governments for much more UN regulation are likely to interfere.

Content Delivery Networks
Most of the contributions from this panel were worthwhile listening to. Comcast has a proposal for a new address family for BGP in a single AS, since content caches perform better if they know something about the network they are in. Dave Tempkin from Netflix described the CDN they are making available.

The talk on BGP route origin verification using reverse DNS had the most people passionate about it - it could have done with a lot more time for questions and discussion.

Energy Science 100G network
Substantial network with 100G wide area network links across the US. Good diagrams of the network, and explaining 100GBase-LR4 . Advanced Networking Initiative, ANI. They built deliberate routing loops for testing.

Lighting talks
Notable in the last batch of talks were:
Jim Martin from ISC describing progress to date on BIND 10. the first try was "a miserable failure"; it's been tested some more since and is back in production on AS112. Will be ready for user testing in October 2012.
Patrick Gilmore from Akamai with statistics from Akamai's monitoring showing recent (an hour ago) and the gradual build up of IPv6 traffic on World IPv6 Day.

9 Aug 2012 Editing to add - video was posted on the agenda some weeks back - look for the .wmv files.
Heavy Reading are selling a write up on photonic integration - there's a useful list of system and component vendors available without paying for the full report.

Meeting agenda with links to presentations - at some point video of the talks will get added
Moore's Law
Ed Crabbe's talk at Nanog 54
Netflix open source
Netflix CDN
Heavy Reading Photonic integration report summary

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

EIE12 exhibitor list

Having been to the last 3 years of Engage Invest Exploit, the event run by Informatics Ventures (University of Edinburgh) where the startups which they support present to investors, I couldn't make this year's event. Michael Hayes from RookieOven posted his summary. Since there isn't a handy list of exhibitors with their URLs, I've made one. We've talked to some of these companies on previous visits; we'll review the others and add some of them to the meeting list next time we're in town.

Exhibitors list

Alpine-iQ - collaboration tool

carbomap - forest monitoring for carbon and fire risk

CereProc Ltd - text to speech in 8 languages, voice cloning

ClearReturns - managing returned product for retailers

CloudTomo Ltd - cloud services, starting with encrypted email

Contemplate Ltd - tools to find bugs in business critical software

Cosneta Ltd - portable device making interactive whiteboard of existing displays

DigiLets - private landlord property management software (updating to changed name - AdvancetoGo, Feb 2013)

Evanidus Ltd - downloadable single-read format of a mainstream ebook

Feusd Ltd - member management tool with CRM, content, events support

Flexpansion Ltd - typing support for Android devices

Inquisitive Systems - enterprise software security event detection and cleanup

Insight Arcade - framework for lifelong self-directed learning

MakeThatMove - hip hop dance video sharing app

Makur - movie editing app

Meta Digital - test platform for mobile app developers

Musemantik - match music to mood, duration and flow of your media

Plantedd - online garden plant marketplace

Psychegraphics - personality profiles for improved ad targetting

PureVLC Ltd - LED light used for wireless communication

Quorate Technology - indexed, searchable AV recordings of meetings

RecommendedBy - social shopping platform

Recovery Analytics - oil and gas field development planning software - daily deals software

ShopForCloud - price comparison for cloud services

Sofant Technologies - smart antenna for handheld devices to lower power consumption

Speech Graphics - lip synchronization for game developers

Swarmly - decide where to go with your friends

The Float Yard Ltd - financial dashboard

theCADcube Ltd - collaboration tool for architects and interior designers

Thought Transmitter - learning and teaching resources

Tilde~Risk - risk management software for affiliate marketing

TravelHUB - travelling salesman routing and costing

1 minute video from each exhibitor at

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Teamly and 500 Startups

Now that the list for the most recent entrants into the 500 Startups accelerator has been published, it's time to offer congratulations to Scott Allison, CEO and Founder at Teamly. He and I met (via Twitter) when he was still in Glasgow, contemplating moving to London, and he's achieved a lot since then.

He's also contributing regular articles to Forbes - the latest on what it takes to get accepted into the 500 startups accelerator, for nine of the twenty seven new entrants.

Silicon Valley is still the best place to grow a 'eyeball' business - one which has potentially millions of customers, whether consumers or enterprise. You can start that business somewhere else, and probably should, since somewhere else will be cheaper - but if you want to scale it up and to compete with everyone else selling to the English speaking world, the Valley is the place to do that. It has the investors, it has the accelerators, it has the lawyers, it has the people who've done it before, all accessible.
To get to the Valley, the company needs to show some success , and have some resources with which to do that - 500 startups, Techstars,and Ycombinator, are accelerators - you have to have something to validate their investment of money and time in you, and you are competing with a tough, global, crowd.

Well done to Scott and Teamly for having made it this far !

Be awesome at work; stay focused, collaborate better, and celebrate your achievements.

How to get in

List of new entrants to 500 Startups

Cultivate Companies

Openflow and Software Defined Networks

One of the more interesting infrastructure themes currently getting attention and investment is Software Defined Networks. The ambition is for there to be a simple network control plane, with clearly defined APIs, enabling changes in network operations depending on the priorities of the applications currently using the network.

The post collects my notes.

Updated 3 May 2012 to add summary from Google keynote at the Open Networking Summit in April.

IBM white paper (May 2011) describes IBM and NEC Openflow demo at Interop 2011.
"The OpenFlow Protocol allows entries in the Flow Table to be defined by a server external to the switch, which creates the potential to unify server and network device management. For example, a flow could be a TCP connection, all the packets from a particular MAC or IP address, or all packets with the same VLAN tag. Each flow table entry has a specific action associated with a particular flow, such as forwarding the flow to a given switch port (at line rate), encapsulating and forwarding the flow to a controller for processing, or dropping a flow’s packets (for example, to help prevent denial of service attacks)."

Nanog 54 - the most interesting panel at San Diego (6 Feb 2012) discussed Openflow, standards work in progress, and one approach to implementing SDN.

Quoting Ed Crabbe (Google) on why Google is interested in SDN - it sees an opportunity to improve cost control for their infrastructure while maintaining performance.

common threads: partition resources and control within network elements

minimize network element local control plane
offline control of forwarding state
offline control of network element resource allocation
minimize complexity of software local to network elements

SDN has been around as a concept for a long time. Ipsilon GSMP, 1996; Cambridge's The Tempest, 1998 and so on down the years. Flowspec in 2008 looks like openflow, too.

IETF PCE, 2004, based on having RSVP-TE deployed, ISIS, etc. From network element software side, it's more complex, but it's deployable today.

But why SDN?
comes down to cost. Most of what we do is cost optimization with bounds for performance

make efficient use of resources
network element CPU and memories
underlying network capacity
move heaviest workloads off expensive, relatively slow embedded hardware to fast, cheap, commodity hardware

reduce network complexity and thus operational overhead and outage time
simplify policy composition
enforce correctness constraints and invariants
reduce inter-dependencies between routers, between protocols

reduce complexity of distributed control system software on network elements

implement innovative new techniques (Heller's Elastic Trees, etc.)

Innovation velocity - desirable to speed feature implementation and deployment
Do new protocol development fast; right now, takes too long to get new protocols into devices.

IBM distributed virtual switch
IBM announced a distributed virtual switch (5000V) 14 Feb 2012 supporting SPAN, ERSPAN, Ethernet Virtual bridge, load balancing, ACLS, etc, integrated into VMware. Alex Bennet (Battery Ventures) "This is an important development because as the first tier of network switching moves into the server, the virtual switch becomes extremely strategic real-estate and control point for emerging SDN architectures."

Summary and notes from Urs Hoelzle's keynote at ONS, titled 'Openflow @ Google'

"OpenFlow has helped us improve backbone performance and reduce backbone complexity and cost"

For the WAN, aim is to have cost per bit/second go down with scale, as for CPU and storage; without a lot of systems engineering, that's not what actually happens, since network complexity goes up; also, a 100G bps interface costs a lot more than 10 x 10 gbs interfaces, or 100 x 1G bps.

Google are operating the WAN backbone carrying traffic between data centers with centralized traffic engineering.
Multiple switch chassis in each domain, custom hardware running Linux; Quagga BGP stack, ISIS/IBGP for internal connectivity

They have a simulation environment for testing "with the complete system, end to end. Everything is real except the hardware".

Building a software defined WAN results in higher performance, better fault tolerance, and lower costs.
Conclusion : Openflow and SDN are ready for real world use.

IBM Openflow white paper
Brocade presentation on Openflow from Nanog 54
Matt Petach's notes (source for Ed Crabbe quotation)
Open Networking Foundation
IBM virtual switch announcement
Battery Ventures
Commentary from Omar Baldinado, now at BigSwitch
Summary from Nick Lippis

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

IBM SmartCamp global final - mentoring notes

Last Wednesday, 1 Feb 2012, was an all day mentoring session for the finalists in IBM's global Smartcamp competition. It was held at the old Federal Reserve Bank building in the financial district in San Francisco. Mentors, of which I was one, spent 40 minutes with each team, having first listened to their pitches. IBM provided a summary of each company. My notes on each are in bold. If you are interested in more background, contact me at .

Finalist Company Information: from IBM

1) BitCarrier
Bitcarrier is the leading provider of real-time traffic information for smart cities. Its patented Bluetooth and Wi-Fi scanning technology provides very accurate and reliable traffic information in real time.

By collecting locations from an average of 48% of target vehicles in real time, Bitcarrier has created the biggest database yet of citizens’ travel behavior. This information is the basis for decision-making regarding new infrastructure or mobility policies, such as the provisioning of public transportation, but it also has unlimited potential from private companies in services/applications they could provide to clients and cities.

Stored and managed in Bitcarrier’s private cloud, the data collected becomes valuable information about congestion generation, the origin and destination of travelers and commuting times.

Bitcarrier’s integrated platform is the seed for new deployments of traffic sensors in the city. It provides an integrated gateway for other technologies like outdoor parking and loops and it provides an open data stream platform and an advanced visualization tool for data dissemination. With Bitcarrier’s integrated platform, city managers can check several KPIs to understand the real benefits of newly implemented policies, and private companies have the infrastructure to develop services to solve end-users’
everyday problems. Bitcarrier’s vision is shared and used by cities such as Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and by some partners like Telvent-Schneider Electric.

Barcelona, Spain. Selling to highway toll operators - limited market - and to city governments in places which have little existing traffic control infrastructure and do have money. This means mainly Latin America. They aim to become the communications platform for other infrastructure status information.

2) C-B4
C-B4 provides unique pattern-based predictive-analytics software that helps organizations make smarter decisions to improve their business results. C-B4 technology is fully automated and does not require experts’ support on
a regular basis. It provides vertical solutions for consumer products and retail customers, as well as a horizontal predictive-analytics server that is easily integrated into telecom, industrial and security systems. C-B4 server weaves its patterns from the actual data stream, and thus provides a unique pattern fingerprint for any object of interest: customer, product, process, service, website, user or more. C-B4 models identify hidden patterns, with practically no limitations on the number of hierarchies and
dimensions. As a result, C-B4 is innovative in three primary ways. It predicts changes much earlier than other solutions enabling actions sooner and reducing costs. It identifies anomalies and opportunities that others miss improving services levels. It identifies complex interrelationships among customers, stores, products, services and other key variables

These activities are performed automatically, with no need for expert intervention, and provide clear, actionable results. The company has leading customers such as Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Applied Materials, Lely, Cellcom, Tnuva, Delek Group, Strauss, General Motors, the European Community, and several intelligence agencies.

Maskit St. Herzlyia, zip code 46733 Israel
Pattern based predictive analytics Academics out of Tel Aviv in 2000
10 person company, good match for Watson

3) ConnectM
ConnectMs vision is to be a leading energy management solutions provider leveraging BI and analytics across telecom tower and building infrastructure.

The ConnectM offering is an end-to-end solution that provides remote monitoring and energy management of telecom infrastructure for energy spend optimization, operations and management, asset management and revenue
assurance. ConnectMs Energy management solution for commercial buildings monitors, optimizes and controls energy systems (e.g., lighting, HVAC, UPS, etc.).
The market for solutions that manage and optimize energy, as well as operational spends in the major target verticals, is estimated to be $16B (U.S.) globally. ConnectM leverages its current leadership position in India, with an install base of 5,000 cell sites, while aligning with global players to build a scalable and profitable business. A significant player
in commercial buildings in India, with an installed base of 3 million square feet of office space, ConnectM delivers annualized energy savings in excess of $4M (U.S.) to current customers, including leading Indian firms as well as global MNC companies.

4th Floor, KMJ Arcadia,No.15 (Old No.310/2),5th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore 560095
$6m funding in 2007 (Crunchbase) from IDG Ventures India (media biz, venture fund) and Sasken. These people need expansion capital, not venture - they have a repeatable installation and ROI model.


IDXP analyzes consumer behavior in real time for the brick-and-mortar retail market. We track the paths to purchase and analyze shoppers’ behavior at the point of sale through an innovative technology that uses smart sensors in shopping carts to monitor their movement in real time. We generate online reports, insights and premium information to help
manufacturers and retailers make better decisions. We allow them to strengthen their marketing initiatives, raise their product conversion rates with instant results, and improve the overall shopping experience for consumers.

Raja Gabaglia, 2708 - Sala 133 - Estoril. CEP. 30.350-540. Belo Horizonte, MG - Brazil
Selling paid pilots to retail associations - groups of grocery stores, where one will be the pilot and the others will follow on. Some government funding. Sales process is 4 - 6 months.

5) Localytics

Localytics offers the most powerful application analytics platform; giving mobile app publishers for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 the tools they need to build more successful and profitable applications. Localytics provides the only real-time service, session-level detail and data access demanded by top application publishers.

One Cambridge Center, 6th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02142 USA
Funded $3.2m, 700k 5/10, $2.5m 4/11
Localytics provides mobile usage data and analytics for the mobile market, similar to companies such as Flurry and Medialets.Customer lifetime value is being optimized.
Pricing Free; $100, $1000 /month.
8000 apps, 150m users - good video, on Vimeo
These people don't necessarily need any more capital - they are doing very well both in traction and in revenue.

6) Palmap

Palmap is a pioneering indoor mapping and POI open platform. Palmap aims to redefine indoor maps and bring new values to mobile users walking inside buildings rather than those driving on streets. We are seeking a breakthrough for the popular LBS applications, where our smarter, super-detailed maps and POI information will greatly help mobile users with indoor activities such as navigating airports and shopping. Based on Palmap’s innovative indoor GIS engine and open APIs, LBS developers could build numerous creative and interesting LBS and SNS Apps such as check-in, store locator, around-me search, location-based games, etc. Palmap incorporates the cutting-edge technologies of GIS, cloud computing, mobile computing and sensor networks to help make our planet smarter.

405, No.88 Lane 777, W Guangzhong Rd, Zhabei Distric, Shanghai 200072, China
Not locating individuals on maps in real time - providing (very detailed) map information to partners, who may. Gathering information by sending paid groups to malls, airports; also by crowdsourcing for updates. Has raised money from China and Hong Kong. Jacky Zhou (formerly Baidu) just joined as Chairman.

7) Profitero
Profitero is a next-generation pricing intelligence service for retailers and manufacturers. The company helps clients to increase sales and maximize profits by leveraging high-quality online competitive data at scale. This allows businesses to react quickly to changes in their competitors’ prices. Some of the world’s biggest retailers already use Profitero pricing data.

Retailers and manufacturers have found Profitero’s data essential for pricing strategy, forecasting, ongoing price management, merchandising planning, product promotions and market/brand positioning.

The technology currently monitors 27.5 million products across 2,500 European retail websites with plans to grow this to 100 million products in 2012. Suited to online and brick-and-mortar retailers and manufacturers, Profitero’s easy-to-use web dashboard application can readily compare accurate pricing data across grocery, drinks, health and beauty, household and electrical goods – including A-brands as well as own-label lines.

Kill Ave, Dun Laoghaire, Co.Dublin, IRL
18 Dec 2011 - raised €750k series A, Delta Partners; Enterprise Ireland & Bank of Ireland
Development center in Belarus. These people won the competition.

8) Secure Waters

SecureWaters, Inc. developed and commercialized patented technology that monitors detects and identifies toxins in surface water. We manufacture and sell the AquaSentinel, an electronic monitor/alarm system for continuous protection of drinking water sources. AquaSentinel is the first system of its kind to automatically and continuously test for chemical toxins in source water supplies using indigenous algae as the biosensor without the need for consumables or reagents. The system allows for early intervention counter-measures against potential threats or accidental contamination for source water assets typically used by water utilities for drinking water. This real-time chemical/biological detection system with remote sampling
and sensing capability significantly improves the safety of the nation’s water supply by ensuring a continuous stream of high-quality water. The sensor can be deployed in multiple units to create a network of interconnected devices, while reducing costs by replacing manual testing, providing 24/7 coverage, eliminating costly cleanup of water utilities and eliminating costly regulatory fines. All of these solutions solve demonstrated pain points our end-users have identified as needing a solution. Our proprietary software and its easy-to-use GUI interface can be integrated into municipal water facility control systems, allowing automatic and timely system protection and cost-savings.

8701 Dayton Pike, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379 USA
Web site needs a couple of case studies, from viewpoint of operators and purchasers. 1m pitch vid shows wireless transmitter, pictures of green algae. Self funded so far, could do with venture investment. Have licensed exclusive patents from Oak Ridge National Labs.

9) Skin Scan
Skin Scan SRL,60 Floreasca Street, Floor 6, District 1, Bucharest, Romania

No hint at a business model. Do they know about the Edinburgh/Cambridge study ?

$50k funding, October 2010

Videos from each finalist

List of mentors

IBM Smartcamp blog

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