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Entrepreneurial Swings, Misses at TechCrunch50

Is the new generation of entrepreneurs running out of ideas? One of the four ideas presented during this morning's session on collaboration at TechCrunch50, running at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse until tomorrow drew heavy fire from entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who was one of the judges.

That was Imindi (pronounced Eye-mind-eye), which presented the idea of a mind map. Presented by Imindi CEO and co-founder Adam Lindeman, with fellow co-founder Galen Kauffman in attendance, the idea is that people create a mind map, then link to other people's thoughts on the topic, which are on the Web, to create a more complete picture of a topic. Advertisers would be able to tap into this somehow.

"Maybe I'm missing something but that sounds like the biggest bunch of bull**** I've heard in my life," Cuban said. "You want millions of people to go online to create personal decision trees of their lives, then you want to use your software to do a Vulcan mind meld, then you want advertisers to create a mind meld as well."

Two of the other three ideas also got panned because they were essentially a rehashing of existing ideas. The fourth, Popego, drew lukewarm interest, but the judges thought it had some potential.

Cuban was not alone in criticizing Imindi. Another judge, Microsoft's Don Dodge, told Lindeman he is "headed in the wrong direction" and suggested he try selling the idea into the enterprise.

The judges Kevin Rose, Digg's founder and chief architect, and Roelof Botha of Sequoia Capital both said they didn't get it. "I consider myself pretty geeky, but I'm having a problem with your concept," Rose said.

Another technology presented was Tingz, a cross-platform shareable widget, which is also a platform. This is Twitter with a little more muscle, in essence, and content aggregation widgets are nothing new.

Tingz will run on Mac OS X, the iPhone and Windows Media Center, but the judges pointed out that OS X already has widgets. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Don Dodge told Tingz founder and CEO Patrick Hine that he needs a differentiator and will find it "very difficult to get adoption," while Boetha suggested Hine tighten his focus.

MIXTT, billed by founder and CEO Eve Peters as a "fresh spin on social networking," provided nothing not already available on established social networking sites. It lets users locate other users with the same interests to set up meetings offline. Users can set up group dates, or basketball games, for example, with strangers.

A judicious combination of Google calendars and Facebook might do the same thing, and Sequoia Capital's Boetha, at least, was not impressed. "The problem of coordinating three guys and three girls each looking for a relationship has been tried before," he said, adding that "a southern California company" had provided this service but it did not work.

The last idea presented was Popego, which founder and product strategist Santiago Siri said would create a "more meaningful Web." The idea here is that it aggregates information users find most relevant, pulling in information from other Web sites and services such as Flickr and social networking sites.

Popego automatically generates an interest profile about users, automatically creating keywords and tags from their digital life. Users can increase the influence of any of the factors in their profile. The system is self-learning.

While the judges liked the idea, they had some reservations. "You're competing with Facebook, which lets you import Digg and Flickr," Rose said. "I like what you're doing here, but I think it's unproven."

Botha liked the idea that Popego is trying to solve the information overload but felt Siri needed to figure out how to popularize the service and wanted to know more about the business model.

The idea is good but needs more sizzle, Cuban said. "There aren't a lot of features that other products can't copy," he explained. "You have to find something that's sexy."