Judging the Plug & Play Tech Center Spring Expo

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I was pleased to participate as a VIP Judge at the Plug and Play TechCenter’s Spring Expo. Other judges included folks from LightSpeed, Menlo Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Doll Capital Management, Norwest Venture Partners, and NEA.  I was impressed with the turnout (over 500 attendees, standing room only) as well as the geographical diversity of the startups that pitched.  As always the enthusiasm and unbridled optimism of these startups is infectious and this was an energizing, uplifting experience. Over the past year, it has been interesting to see the pendulum shift within Silicon Valley’s leading incubators away from mostly Consumer Internet to increasingly, I am seeing startups that are embracing big new themes including:

  1. Next generation Enterprise technologies: ranging from infrastructure, including networking and storage, all the way up the stack to the application layer, including new paradigms for collaboration and communication within the enterprise
  2. Transformative disruption in Human Computer Interaction: moving beyond the point and click keyboard and mouse to touch, gesture recognition, and speech interfaces. From Graphical UX to Intuitive UX.
  3. Leveraging the latent powers of Smartphones: we are all carrying these very powerful computers in our pockets and startups are figuring out how these devices and their significant capabilities can be used to disrupt large markets. For example: sensing vital signs for health monitoring to mapping / geolocation for navigation to leveraging location-awareness and smartphone cameras to enrich productivity, commerce, and entertainment applications.

By way of background, Plug and Play Tech Center is a global accelerator that specializes in growing tech startups. Headquartered in Sunnyvale California, Plug and Play’s network includes over 300 tech startups, that have collectively raised over $750 million, as well as 180 investors and a community of leading Universities and Corporate partners. The Spring Expo was held on March 28 2013 in Sunnyvale, where 31 startups told their stories to a crowd of potential investors and journalists.  The three winning startups, which aligned closely with my top picks, included:

  1. Stipple: an image-based advertising service that helps brands turn the images they put on the Web into e-commerce opportunities by connecting them to interactive media, advertising and commerce.
  2. Speak to It: a voice-activated personal assistant for Android devices before the Expo. SpeakToIt were declared a Top 10 Android app by the New York Times and won demo days at Stanford and Cisco.
  3. Stratio: a new infrared imaging technology that works with a smartphone, making it higher-resolution and much cheaper than conventional infrared approaches. Possible use cases range from food quality to chemical analysis and forensic to measuring blood glucose levels in diabetic patients non-invasively.

 

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