I went to a tech meetup, BDNT, last night in Boulder. I used to go often when I lived in Denver a couple of years ago. Six or so startup-alikes get five minutes to pitch then five minutes for questions. These are the three that I remember:

 

ambientbox

AmbientBox pitched an analytics platform for restaurants, bars and shops. You buy a magical box ($250) and plug it in. It records various things like noise level, CO2 (to detect how many people are in the room), lighting levels and so on. It uploads this and then you use an app to figure out when the ambiance is “good.” A pretty ipad app or website will theoretically let you use this data to figure out how to improve your space, get more customers and so on. You pay $100/month or something. Sort of Nest for restaurants, maybe.

My thoughts:

  • Basic idea is kind of interesting.
  • A magical box sounds painful. Why can’t this just be an smart phone app to start? It has a camera and microphone on it minimum.
  • CO2 sensor sounds interesting, but I’m willing to bet it correlates with noise level and is irrelevant.
  • Low end restaurants won’t give a crap about this. High end restaurants will pay someone. The middle ground sounds like a smaller market?
  • The great part about this is that it gives your restauranteur the feeling of being in control and making progress. Even if it’s bullshit, there are lots of people who’re happy to pay for pretty graphs and to pay for the feeling of control. Another way of putting it; it’s enough data to hang yourself with.
  • Visualizations were pretty.

 

chatlingual

ChatLingual is magical IM chat on the web with seamless translation between languages. So, we each chat in our language and it’s translated on the fly. Monetization is a little unclear, pay per chat, tokens or something. Secret plan is to build the best translation engine possible.

Thoughts:

  • Super pretty and clean UI.
  • If I’m cheap, I’ll go use Google translate or something. If I have money and I have some nuanced conversation with reserved Japanese executives, then I need a professional translator?
  • The data collection secret plan is good, but super long range. Sounds like free basic usage plus additional services (e.g. freemium) would work well. Computer translation for free, real bilingual people for $20/hour or whatever.
  • Would be a useful feature for odesk / elance so I can communicate better with freelancers
  • The flip side, is that it might just be a feature. Don’t IM clients do this already?

 

fittrip

FitTrip is (will be) an iPad app which makes working out more fun. You connect a heart rate monitor and your iPad magically shows you a video of you, say, running the grand canyon. If your heart rate speeds up then the video speeds up, like you’re really there. Content is paid for; so you get one free virtual run then you pay to run other places. There are competitors out there for this idea.

Thoughts:

  • The guys asked the audience if they’d pay $5 for a trip. This is an awful way to ask about pricing. You need to ask “what is a cheap price”, “what is an expensive price” and so on.
  • Most of the audience, 100+ people, put their hands up to the $5 question. This is wacky. What they should have asked is how many people have iPads, heart rate monitors, a running machine and work out. And want to pay for this app content. It’ll be a much smaller percentage.
  • If I’m going to pay for an iPad, a heart rate monitor and the app, and a gym membership or running machine, couldn’t I just fly to the grand canyon for less money and run for real? (Answer is yes, you can).
  • The guys mentioned 60% of gym memberships are paid for but unused. That is, people don’t show up to the gym. They said this like it’s a bad thing. Gyms love that, it’s free cash flow. The last thing in the world a gym wants is customers to show up, the same way a bank doesn’t want us all showing up to withdraw money at the same time.
  • All that said, the app was very pretty.
  • It’s a large, irrational market, just look at that 60% of gym members who don’t show up, but still pay. So even crazy stupid ideas can work.