Since there is no August meeting for VanTEC, the July’s meeting had twice the companies presenting. In addition to the usual 5 5-minute snapshots, there were another 10 extra preview presentations. Moreover Mike decided to run the same presentations twice. As I was sponsoring one of the companies, I had to come to both days. The days were very long and quite tiring. Imagine 3.5 hours of non-stop presentations, from 20 companies!
There were a few companies that I found particularly interesting.
This company’s idea is to help entrepreneurs with fundraising. Startups make a video of their pitch and upload it to fundfindr’s site. Potential investors can watch those videos and contact the entrepreneurs if they are interested in the idea. The site also provides listing of various investor groups and their contact information, which is a helpful resource.
I think it will probably be a very useful tool for both investors and startups. Though entrepreneurs should be careful at posting their pitches in public. If your video tells too much, you might be creating an unnecessary competition. No need to be paranoid, but exercising common sense is probably a good idea.
Apparently millions of restaurants have a problem with not being able to fill in the empty seats and lose money because of that. letsgofordinner is set to solve this problem, by equipping the restaurants with software that will send SMS messages to potential clients offering a 50% discount (restaurants are still very profitable, even at 50% discount – imagine the real cost of the meal). The startups says that people are embarrassed to use coupons and therefore having the payment done via the site removes the awkwardness element.
I will gladly become their user once they live and running. peerfx brings a solution for an interesting problem – currency exchange spread that banks take is huge. When exchanging big sums of money this becomes pretty expensive. Personally I don’t use banks to exchange money, but go to smaller shops that specialize in money exchange and get much better rates. e.g. one such shop in Vancouver is Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange and another is Custom House Global Foreign Exchange. You just call them ask for the rate and if you come within a few hours they will reserve it for you. My teller at VanCity told me that they now also give custom rates to customers who exchange bigger sums of money. And of course there is xe.com that tries to give the best rates, but the problem is that it involves wire transfer and it might take a few days to convert your money.
Back to the peerfx story – banks charge higher rates, because they take the risk of buying foreign currency reserves (and because they can charge more). peerfx solves the problem by letting two people simply swap currencies removing the middle-man and the need to have a cash reserve. Of course peerfx is still the middle-man, but they are going to charge a lot less than banks. This is very exciting and if successful may force banks to reduce their rates (or may be not).
One thing I’m not sure about is how quickly peerfx could grow, before competitors realize that this is a great idea and provide the same features. I’d imagine that it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of weeks for paypal, google cart and alikes to provide such solution. They already have everything in place, including huge user-bases. Florence Leung, the CEO of peerfx.com, tells me that they have a patent on the whole idea. But I’m not quite sure how defendable that patent would be.
wommp is the “word of mouth marketing project”. Alexandra Skey had an impromptu presentation where she impersonated a typical consumer and a provider, each having a problem of communicating to each other their wants and needs. Users don’t want to see irrelevant advertisements, marketers in turn would love to figure out how to find the consumers that want their products and services and have everybody happy. The ultimate goal of the project is to implement “permission marketing” as coined by Seth Godin. i.e. they want to attract a lot of users which will specify their needs in a very detailed way, so that marketers could talk directly only to consumers who want their products and services. The idea is interesting, but as they say the devil is in the details. Let’s see what Alexandra can come up with. Watch Alexandra’s presentation here.