Web Innovators Group Rocks the Royal Sonesta

Entrepreneurs Posted Sep 11, 2007 by metropolis

Remember those college ride boards?

Senior driving to Ocean City, NJ this weekend, leaving Friday night at 5:30 p.m. returning Sunday around 4 p.m. Looking for 3 riders. No smokers.

Little did we know we were reducing our carbon footprints. We were just broke and a ride was a ride.

GoLoco is the Facebook-fueled equivalent. The service helps people arrange rides with friends and friends of friends in their network. Destinations might be sporting events, conferences, concerts or shopping trips – anything for which the user wants to collect riders. GoLoco charges a 10% transaction fee (via PayPal) to the rider. The concept certainly appeals to my ecofreakiness.

GoLoco (mentioned in Scott Kirsner’s recent blog post and Sunday Globe column) was one of the Main Dishes (five-minute presentation) at last night’s jam-packed Web Innovators Group meeting. Refreshed by some beach time this summer, it appeared that local entrepreneurs and groupies were ready to get back to business. The last one of these I attended early in the year had around 200 people; this room must have easily held 400. The room was buzzing with energy and ideas. Kudos to Venrock’s David Beisel for cooking up these dishes and keeping them on a high simmer.

DesignMyRoom was another fun Main Dish. This is not your typical startup, since it’s a spinout of Westborough-Mass. based Swatchbox Technologies. (The precise relationship between the two companies is not spelled out on their sites, so I’m making some assumptions.) At any rate, Swatchbox makes virtual design tools for the home. The Swatchbox customer list is none too shabby: Ace, Alcoa, Armstrong, Bennie Moore, Dupont, Lowe’s, Mohawk, Pittsburgh Paints, Sherwin Williams, Time Warner and True Value.

DesignMyRoom uses the Swatchbox rendering engine to do just what you’d expect based on its name. You can pick a room that approximates your space, and add paint, flooring, area rugs, lighting and even window treatments. For the non-professional designer, it looks like great fun, with an easy to use interface. The site is an advertiser’s dream, since designers can translate their selections into purchases. Sponsors (this is just the beta mind you) include Armstrong, Bennie Moore, Kohler, Smith & Noble and Whirlpool. Yowza.

Meanwhile, in the “I’m just not hip enough for this” category comes FrameChannel. This Main Dish lets users select and manage image content for wireless picture frames or desktops. The site features over 200 channels of dynamic content, so users can easily combine their own photos with others from news or entertainment channels and feeds from photo sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa. The site supports text channels as well, so you can get news feeds or weather, for example.

The WebInno events always feature the chosen three stars of the evening, which warrant the five-minute presos, as well as around six Side Dishes. The Side Dishes simply demo around the sides of the room. Last night they got one minute to describe their concept at the opening of the meeting.

Last night’s Sides:

Fafarazzi – My favorite of the Sides. Fantasy Football meets celebrity rankings. You create or join a league, draft your favorite celebs (or the most notorious if you want to win) and watch them garner points for their antics. What team would be complete without Britney?

Oncero – An online referral recruiting platform designed to help employers leverage their networks to find job seekers.

AdME – A platform for the “promotion and distribution of branded content and consumer products”. The company was demo’ing its music-driven mobile entertainment technology.

Mobleo – Building a collaborative repository of mobile-related info, driven by personal interests.

SNIFLabs – This is the one demo that I really wanted to check out that I missed. The Labs develop interactive technologies to improve the lives of pets and their owners. The company’s new product is the SNIF Tag, a reportedly stylish tag that attaches to Moose’s collar. It records and uploads to the Web a pet’s daily moments and encounters with other dogs wearing SNIF Tags. Hmm….

The Updown – Last but not least – An online social network for investors using virtual portfolios. Pick your pals’ brains for their successful investment strategies. More Fantasy Football, this time with stocks.

All in all, a vibrant room packed with interesting folks.

Addendum: Here’s the GigaOM post on the event, for another view.