RealTime IT News

Mr. Personality Wows TechCrunch50 Session

SAN FRANCISCO -- Representatives of startups making presentations at TechCrunch50, running at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse until Wednesday, are understandably nervous as they are presenting to some of the most astute minds in high-tech, both in the judges' panel and in the audience.

None of this fazed the presenter for Tonchidot, a Tokyo-based mobile application developer. Despite his heavy Japanese accent, CEO Takahito Iguchi wowed the crowd with his personality.

"Look up! Don't look down!" he exhorted the crowd, which applauded. Iguchi introduced the Sekai Camera, a real world interface for the iPhone that connects the real and virtual worlds.

Users of the iPhone can point their devices at anything and get tags about it over the Web from the Tonchidot's database. They can also create their own tags by speaking into the iPhone and sending these back to the database or e-mail them to friends.

"So you have the development of man," Iguchi said, pulling up a graphic showing the ascent of man, from chimp to Neanderthal to Homo Sapiens to the ultimate human being -- a human holding an iPhone. The crowd roared, clapped and whistled in appreciation.

The presentation wowed the judges. "That's one of the coolest demos I've ever seen," said venture capitalist Josh Kopelman, managing partner at First Round Capital and the founder of Half.com, which was acquired by eBay in 2000.

That approval spilled over to Tonchidot CTO Masayuki Ahmaesu, who also wowed the crowd. "Before Google buys you, I just wanted to know," journalist Rafe Needleman, also a judge, began, and Ahmaesu promptly said 'Never!" to roars of approval and more applause from the audience.

Even their lack of English skills paid off. When another judge, O'Reilly Media founder and CEO Tim O'Reilly asked if Tonchidot would build the database for the entire world or other people would build it for them, Ahmaesu's reply, to much laughter and applause, was "Whole world."

"Google and Microsoft, this is their vision, too, so they're going to try to build it scraping everybody's sites," O'Reilly said.

"There is no Web. Please join us. Let's work together. Even 20 years," Iguchi said.

"So when the world changes, how do you deal with that? In a store it will change all the time," a member of the audience asked. "Yes, exactly," Iguchi replied. Exit Tonchidot, to a standing ovation and whoops and whistles of approval.

The judges also liked the technology demonstrated by the other three presenters, but remained a bit skeptical about how those products would be monetized.

Another company showing off its technology was Mytopia, which aims to "help the world play together," CEO Guy Ben-Artzi said. The company's RUGS framework enables cross-platform application development across the Web and mobile devices.

RUGS lets developers code applications once and automatically compile native builds for all key mobile operating systems, major social networks and the Web. Developers build in languages they already know, and only have to adhere to RUG programming rules.

Mobclix, another company making its presentation, provides developers of iPhone applications a platform to get real time analytics and monetization strategies to create best of breed products.

"Give us 15 minutes of your time and we'll change your life," the Mobclix presenter, who didn't introduce himself by name, told the audience. "We help you monetize your application and transform it into a business for you."

In response to a question by journalist Rafe Needleman, one of the judges, the Mobclix presenter said the company will be offering its application for other devices and that it has "got a lot of overtures from overseas to go to Symbian as well as Windows Mobile devices."

The last presentation was Fitbit, which has developed a wireless wearable sensor, called the Fitbit Tracker, that the user can wear and which tracks data about the user's activities. It can log how many calories the user burned, how far the user walked, how long the user slept and how many times the user woke up from sleep.

The data is automatically uploaded to the Tracker's wireless base and is displayed on the Fitbit Website. "We want to make America healthier," Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park told the audience. "I'm really concerned about Linux hackers," he added, pulling up statistics from a Linux symposium which showed about half the developers wore large or extra large T-shirts.