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2011 DEMOgods enjoy a heavenly year

A lot can happen in a year, especially for young companies given the exposure of presenting at the bi-annual DEMO conference. With fall 2012 DEMO about to kick off, Network World caught up with some of last year's DEMO award winners.

Six presenters were given DEMOgod awards, while one received the People's Choice award, which comes with a $1 million multi-media advertising package. Here's an update:

Aurasma - DEMOgod and People's Choice award winner

The most celebrated of last year's presenters, Aurasma provides an impressive mobile technology that extends the physical world to the Internet. Through an app designed for the iPhone 4 and 4S, iPad 2 and 3, and some Android devices, Aurasma's technology recognizes physical objects through the device's camera and immediately links to information or content related to them.

This video shows a good example, in which the user scans a GQ Magazine cover photo of Tim Tebow to find related video of Tebow holding press conferences or television interviews. 

Aurasma's global head of sales Matt Mills described the presentation at DEMO as "six minutes of pure adrenaline." He adds, "To be honest, I didn't actually know whether I had said was what we had planned until I watched the video back afterwards."

Not that it mattered. Mills says presenting at DEMO "really did launch the U.S. side of our business," providing a platform for the company to launch a partner program that has since added 8,000 partners.

The momentum created at DEMO led to improvements in Aurasma's product, culminating in a completely redesigned mobile app to be released shortly. This work has not gone unnoticed, either.

Last month, Aurasma announced an agreement to provide its augmented reality technology for Spain-based telecommunications giant Telefonica's location-based marketing and mobile coupon services, Giga Om reported.

For those preparing for DEMO presentations this year, Mills had some advice. "This is six minutes to show the audience that you have something that will change the world, so show something that is considered 'everyday' or describe an everyday problem, then show how your innovation or product can really make a difference," Mills says. "Then you must find something for the end that will really blow people away."

Above all else, though, Mills says presenters need to be prepared with a backup plan, because "if something bad can happen on a normal day it is about 100 times more likely to happen on a DEMO day."

WeVideo - DEMOgod award winner

WeVideo introduced its cloud-based video editing and collaboration tool at last year's Fall DEMO event, having recognized "the massive appetite for online video and knowing that the majority of online videos are unedited." The objective is to make it as easy to edit and post a video online as it is with photographs.

Company CEO Jostein Svendsen says DEMO was WeVideo's first chance for global recognition. "We went from being a completely unknown little startup from Norway, with a total of three Google search results, to being discussed in technology and consumer magazines around the world, and being hailed as the 'next big thing,' Svendsen says.

WeVideo also went on to partner with YouTube, integrating its video editor tool directly onto YouTube's site. Later, WeVideo was chosen as a launch partner for Google's cloud-based file storage tool Drive.

Beyond reputation, Svendsen says DEMO served as a major milestone in its $19.2 million Series A financing round. Svendsen's advice for companies attending DEMO is to remember that the presentation doesn't necessarily end after they leave the stage.

"My best advice for demonstrators is: Have fun, do a killer demo, not only on stage but also continuously on the exhibition floor for everyone you meet," Svendsen says. "Engage with the plethora of interesting folks, engage with partners, media and investors, and make DEMO a coming-out opportunity."

Planana - formerly known as trueRSVP, DEMOgod award winner

Almost everything about this company has changed in the past year, including its name. Now called Planana, the company attended Fall DEMO 2011 under the name trueRSVP and held one of the most memorable presentations seen at the event.

Company co-founder Fei Xiao ran onstage in a wedding dress to ask the audience if they'd seen her missing fiancé. The idea was to demonstrate the company's scheduling app, which measured social media users' likelihood to attend events based on whether they'd attended events they were invited to on Facebook and other social networks.

The ploy worked, granting the company enough attention to eventually hold a seed round of funding from Tech Coast Angels, with which it completely rebranded. This summer, Xiao and fellow co-founder Anna Sergeeva re-launched the company as Planana and shifted its efforts towards a product that helps increase attendance and sponsorship for events through social networks. Through a sort of gamification process, Planana provides rewards to attendees who engage with the brands hosting or sponsoring an event.

DEMO provided key momentum to get the company through such a dramatic shift, Sergeeva says. "DEMO definitely gave us a great press push that helped us gain our initial user base," she says. "Also, validation from DEMO was great when raising our seed round."

After her own experience with a unique, successful presentation at DEMO, Sergeeva advises this year's attendees to "practice, practice, practice," and to keep their pitch "simple but effective."

"And, of course, challenge yourself to be unconventional and leave an impact," Sergeeva says.

LUMOback - formerly known as zero2one, DEMOgod award winner

Another DEMOgod award winner was zero2one, the company now known as LUMOback that offers a mobile app that monitors its users' posture and movement to prevent back pain. The app, compatible with the third-generation iPad, fifth-generation iPod Touch, and iPhone 5 and 4S, recognizes when users are slouching in their seats and emits a vibrating reminder to sit upright.

Since DEMO, where CEO and co-founder Monisha Perkash says the company made valuable contacts with media and investors, the re-branded LUMOback has completely altered its product's design and algorithms for improvements. This, of course, was driven by the $1.1 million in seed funding and $200,000 in Kickstarter contributions LUMOback has garnered in the past year.

Interestingly, all of this came after an event that Perkash says she and her colleagues almost didn't attend. Having second thoughts about whether the company was ready to launch, Perkash says they didn't commit to presenting at DEMO until one week beforehand.

In the past year, Perkash has reaped the benefits of the networking opportunities at DEMO, and advises any company that may be unsure to take advantage of it.

"A key to having good relationships is building them before you need them, and DEMO is a great way to begin doing that with future customers, press, investors, and partners," Perkash says. "Even if there is not an immediate outcome of the connections you make, many of them will benefit you down the road."

While most of these companies have grown, not all have been so lucky. DEMO's Rising Star award winner, a startup called AdGame, has faded. AdGame was one of three selected to attend DEMO from the 300 that competed at the Mega Startup Weekend event held at Microsoft's Mountain View campus last September. At DEMO, AdGame edged out the other two remaining startups to earn the Rising Star award. Last month, a company representative said the company is currently on hold.

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is cneagle@nww.com.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.


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