WebInno Meeting: Space, Race and Carbon Pace

Uncategorized Posted Jan 31, 2008 by Chris Carleton

If you’re looking for a better way to find parking spaces, want to play your own version of the Amazing Race or get a handle on the carbon footprint you and your Facebook buddies are leaving behind, then the January 29 Web Innovators event was the place to be.

Interesting timing, too. It coincided with the first day of DEMO underway on the Left Coast. Chris Shipley is a champion of innovation and the twice-yearly DEMOs represent another great venue for startups and new offerings from established firms.

But I digress…

The 16th in the WebInno series brought out another S.R.O. crowd of entrepreneurs-in-training, entrepreneurs-in-hunt, institutional and angel money folks, media old and new, and a couple dozen PR and marketing types. There to vet the portfolio of fledging teams that WebInno Founder David Beisel had arranged, the Main Courses and Side Dishes ranged from not-for-profits to hopefully very-much-for-profits. Here’s the roster.

Unveiling an audience text message voting system, SpotScout proved the tastiest among Main Dishes. An “eBay for parking spots,” per company exec/spokesperson Andrew Rollert, the startup seeks to solve a problem that most of us wrestle with on an everyday basis. It’s a one stop-shop for identifying and comparison shopping parking garages, and then reserving spots if desired in the preferred locale. Would-be parking magnates can get in on the action as well, by renting out their own spots when not in use…at prices agreed upon in advance by parker and parkee. There’s even an ability to sell info back into the SpotScout community about the public spot you’ll be leaving and when so others can get in when the getting’s good.

Bostonians are likely to be even more excited if SpotScout adds a feature for placing and removing lawn chairs and other furniture from shoveled parking places during the winter months.

Rounding out the Main Dishes were Urban Interactive and MakeMeSustainable. Like SpotScout, both have generated some decent buzz coming into WebInno.

Urban Interactive is a subsidiary of Conditor. Paraphrasing from its site and Main Disher Nicholas Tommarello’s remarks, Urban Interactive takes leisure time to another level by mixing mobile technology, improvisational actors, and theatric props together to deliver immersive adventures for tourists, for example. Notably, the company also sees a target market in organizations and their employees seeking to spice up the oft-dreaded team-building days, etc.

Have to admit I was predisposed to MakeMeSustainable even before getting to WebInno. That’s because my partner, Barb Heffner, crossed paths with company CEO Ben Brown through the work CHEN PR does with the MIT Enterprise Forum and has been a one-woman example of viral marketing on its behalf with regard to the company overall and its carbon calculator specifically. The value prop as I heard it – personalize all the Save the Planet noise we hear by enabling us to capture the impact we make individually on Mother Earth…and then once quantified, help us understand the little and the big things alike we can do to get our Green on. Leveraging Facebook, it also helps us share this info with family and friends, get some grass roots environmentalism rolling and hopefully make us the kind of people Al Gore would be proud to know.

Didn’t get a chance to talk with all the Side Dishers …but was duly impressed by Glasstooth and Socrato. The former is a 501(c)(3) with a mission to capitalize on the Web to help people get more info and make better informed political decisions. The latter offers an eLearning solution to help kids prepare for and conquer things like MCAS and related standardized tests. The exec I spoke with from Socrato – I think it was co-founder Michael Oates – has 9-year-old twins and I’m the Dad of 13-year-old triplets. So after giving one another the secret handshake, we figured we we’re as good a focus group as any when it comes to kids, school, homework, tests and parenting…