L009: LAUNCH Conference Winners: Why They Won

More than 500 companies applied to present at the LAUNCH Conference, and only 54 of them made it to the main stage last week. Of those, 13 won awards.

This is what we  -- and the Grand Jury -- saw in those companies.

It's important to note that while the LAUNCH team selected the participating companies, we left the voting up to our amazing Grand Jury, whose members gave up two full days of their lives to watch every presentation from the front row (list + bios here). On behalf of the companies we thank them for their service.

Here are the winners:

1.0 Competition (new companies, new products)
Best Overall: Room 77
Best Tech: ToothTag by NeuAer
Best Design: Cabana
Best Business Model: Volta
Best Presentation: LifeProof

2.0 Competition (existing companies with new products)
Best Overall: Stack Overflow's Careers 2.0
Best Technology: Disconnect 2.0
Best Design: Hipmunk's mobile app

LAUNCH Pad (products launched in the past year)
Best Overall: GreenGoose
Best Technology: Fluidinfo
Best Design: Pen.io
Best Business: Gripeline by Nandimobile
Most Likely to be Acquired: Shoefitr

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1.0 - Best Overall: Room 77

LAUNCHERS: Brad Gerstner, Kevin Fliess

WHAT: See your hotel room before you book.

WHY: The model already works well for airline seats, so it was only a matter of time before someone launched it for hotel rooms.  

1. Room 77's project was easily understood and near completion. +2
2. This product was built by a seasoned team from the travel space. +1
3. Room 77 actually launched their product on stage to everyone (not just in private beta). +1
4. The product has clever tech (using Google Earth to map out specific hotel room perspectives). +1
5. Excellent UX and design. +1
6. Great business model: both content syndication and destination site. +1
7. Huge market size for product; hotel rooms have a nice margin. +1
8. Room 77's presentation was flawless and brought the "wow." +1

LAUNCH Analysis: Room 77 was a last-minute addition that came through the side door. A little birdie told us about the service and we set up a demo. Thirty seconds in, we knew they would be a strong candidate for winning "Best Overall" at LAUNCH.

PREDICTION: We are absolutely sure this company will either be a strong, revenue-driven company five years from now or acquired for nine figures.

1.0 - Best Tech: ToothTag by NeuAer

LAUNCHER: Dave Mathews

WHAT: Tag anything Bluetooth or wifi.  

WHY: Check-in fatigue is real, so why not avoid it? ToothTag can trigger an alert checking you into your local coffee shop anytime you're there for more than three minutes (done by firing off a foursquare check-in if you were in range of the coffee shop's wifi network -- slick huh?).


1. ToothTag's founder invented the worst product in history: the CueCat. +1
2. ToothTag had a working product, shown under the Elmo, not in an iPhone simulator. +1
3. A never-ending list of real-world examples wowed the judges and audience. "Have an old Bluetooth headset? Put it in your child's backpack and if he or she goes out of range an alarm will go off on your phone." +1
4. Massive API possibilities. +1
5. Flawless demo of a really complicated product.

LAUNCH Analysis: Despite the fact that this company has a terrible name (NeuAer), and a terrible product name (ToothTag), they wowed the crowd by showing something that has clearly been technically possible for a while but no one has built. Much like Room 77, people were left wondering "Why didn't I think of that?" and "Hasn't someone built this already?" Entrepreneurs love to hear those questions because that means vanguard adoption is locked in.

PREDICTION: Look for a nice big angel round and a lot of hacking in 2011. The long-term outlook for the company in terms of business model is cloudy, but who cares? Sometimes the best way to build a business is to simply build something cool that you crave.

1.0 - Best Design: Cabana

Reeve Thompson

WHAT: Give designers the power to create apps, just like WordPress made it possible for everyone to blog.

WHY: Apps are hard, expensive and time consuming to build.

1. They actually built an iPhone app on stage. +1
2. The product looks easy to use, giving everyone the hope--true or not--that they might be able to build that iPhone app they've always dreamed of building. +1
3. Flawless presentation due to an amazing "driver." +1
4. Wildly clever business model based on a marketplace of plugins for things like photo sharing, foursquare or Twitter that you would buy to put into your product. +1
5. Being in a huge market filled with pain and friction that your product might help remove. +1

LAUNCH Analysis: Never underestimate the value of building something that is simultaneously elegant and powerful.

PREDICTION: This company will start making waves quickly, and Google or Apple will buy it within 18 months.

Analysis of the other 10 winners is ONLY FOR NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS. Don't miss out the next time: Subscribe now.


LAUNCH Media covers and celebrates new products, services and technology in two ways: an email newsletter and an in-person conference. LAUNCH was founded by a serial entrepreneur, former journalist and now angel investor we're tired of promoting.


About the LAUNCH Newsletter
Our newsletter is compiled in a collaborative fashion by a half-dozen writers, researchers and industry pundits we invite to our Google Docs from time-to-time. Our conflicts are many, but our insights and facts are always well-researched, honest and to the point. We're blunt to a fault -- by design.


About the LAUNCH Conference
The LAUNCH Conference rocked. That's really all you need to know. Catch it all here if you missed it. And we'll have another one next year, perhaps sooner.

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Walker specializes in the representation of entrepreneurs.

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#2: If you find yourself losing the game, just change the rules.