This time a year ago we decided to expand our client portfolio to include consumer tech companies. It served us well to stay laser focused on enterprise software for the past 15 years – never getting distracted by the boom babies that pulled so many agencies down with them. Now the time is right! Earlier this year we hired vice president Martha Feingold to head our consumer tech efforts. Martha’s background includes several years at Edelman on the Apple account, including the launches of iPod and iTunes.
More recently we attended the Consumer Technology Ventures conference – Downloading the Digital Lifestyle – in early November. It’s already been a month (we’ve been busy!) but we’ve been meaning to share some thoughts. The event gave hot start ups a venue to pitch and shop for funding among a great group of VCs, analysts, journalists and CEOs. We were surprised to find that we were the only agency that attended – no complaints! More than 70 start ups pitched their hearts out – while more established MySpace and Slingbox got a lot of buzz. Hot topics were targeted consumer outreach, social networking and portable digital music and video.
Words from Walt…
Walt Mossberg, personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal – worshipped and feared by anyone launching a new consumer technology product – gave one of the keynotes. He shared what he sees as the five leading trends and issues.
1. The device formerly known as the cell phone – Walt’s words to talk about how hot a platform the cell phone has become. However, he thinks the software is poor and the service providers are strangling innovation. Walt refers to the carriers as “the soviet ministries” because they shouldn’t control what device you get to use.
2. Wireless everything, wi-fi, wi-max etc. He’s worried about security problems and compatibility between systems.
3. The napsterization of digital content. Walt points to how the video iPod is revolutionizing television, as seen in decisions by ABC, CBS and NBC to sell content. The big problem here is digital rights management. Walt calls Sony the “Ayatollah of DRM” and we saw in Rolling Stone how their latest plan backfired on them.
4. Convergence is here, but it’s too complicated. He calls for plug and play technologies.
5. The new web apps. Walt’s especially impressed by what can be done with AJAX and Flash. Even Microsoft has thrown in the towel with the announcement of Office Live!.
Walt’s remarks aside, there were dozens of interesting companies on stage during the two day event. A few of our favorites are:
• Predixis – technology that automatically categorizes and catalogs your music, making it much easier to create playlists. Did you know that 50% of all MP3 players carry less then 100 songs?
• Music Gremlin – provides direct-to-device wireless content distribution. In other words, take out the PC as the source to download music, videos before you load them on your iPod. They’re coming out with a player, but really want to license their technology.
• Truveo – operates a search engine for online video using a visual crawler technology. Try to look for a news clip on Yahoo! or Google, and then try it again with Truveo. We’d be surprised if they’re not snapped up by the big guys soon.
• Peerflix – an online trading platform for goods and services, the first application is DVDs.
• Glam Media – overall consumer spending is 83% women. Online it’s just 50%. Over 80% of premium, luxury companies don’t advertise on the web. Those are the stats that drove the creation of glam.com where they create a browse-click-buy experience.
• Mobissimo – a travel search engine that searches both direct supplier and other travel websites. CEO Beatrice Tarka blew everyone away when she did a gutsy side-by-side comparison with well-funded Kayak with Kayak CEO Steve Hafner right there in the room.