What are up-and-coming mobile companies focused on? The DEMO Mobile Conference offered a privileged peek at mobile’s future.
The conference is organised around presentations of pre-launch startups, which then compete for a series of awards in different categories.
BI Intelligence attended the April 17 conference, hosted by former TechCrunch Editor-In-Chief Erick Schonfeld, and brought back a few highlights.
- Mobile Health: This category will continue to explode as consumers take control of their health and medical information. There’s also excitement around technologies that streamline back-end office processes. The winner at DEMO in this category was Kinsa, which leverages a thermometer that pugs into a smartphone that can track how you are feeling over time, and to see your history, and trends. Couple that with insight from other people around you, at school or in your area, and the analytics captured can be quite powerful.
- Mobile Enterprise: Mobile can improve the efficiencies of sales forces, video conferencing, and email. The winner in this category, Altia Systems’ PanaCast camera, delivers a low-cost video conferencing solution with 360-degree views.
- Mobile is expanding to new frontiers. Entrepreneurs presented new takes on the “Internet of things” and artificial intelligence, including mini-drones activated by smartwatches and Siri-like, Spanish-speaking, voice-activated digital assistants. One winner of this category, Volio, creates digital video avatars of real people that hold online video conversations and dispense expertise to audiences. By leveraging snippets of video and artificial intelligence, Volio creates the illusion of a one-on-one consultation with an expert or media personality.
- Mobile and Social: Mobile allows location and real-time communication to enhance social media and social games. A good example is the winner of this category at DEMO: Monkey Inferno’s social beer drinking game, BeerHunt. Drink a Bud Light, you get points taken away; find some microbrews, and you’re off to the races. While it might not be around in 12 months, it goes to show that there are no limits to mobile’s ability to recreate familiar experiences.
- Emotion in Mobile: Sun Microsystems founding CEO, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, said there isn’t enough attention to emotion in mobile-based products. He believes Instagram and Pinterest succeeded by creating feelings around a mobile experience, and that that will be a key to future success in mobile.
The quote of the day came from Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and Lean Startup movement creator, who emphasised a single-minded focus on the consumer.
“You’re not smarter than the collective intelligence of the customers using your product,” said Blank.
The trick is to focus on one thing and do it well, he added, while having the research and tools to back up your initial hypothesis knowing that at any moment you could change course.
But perhaps the most valuable part of the conference was Schonfeld’s conversation with Khosla, who now runs Khosla Ventures. (At right in the photo.)
Surprisingly, Khosla said he’s not interested in the later-stage companies, but more in companies valued at under $3 million.
He said more mature start-ups tend to limit themselves to a single business plan.
Instead of having a plan, he advised, “have a plan to build a plan.” A young company has to find “base camp” first, before climbing Mt. Everest. But there can be many base camps along the way, he added, as you build the right team to get you to the summit.
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