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the travel industry. He says U.S. air travel is a $300 billion market. But nobody else gives online consumers reliable ratings of things like legroom, gate locations and connection logistics, how old the airline’s planes are, and other indicators of trip quality. The business model is a mix of referral fees and advertising, and the core technology is based on relational databases.
—Daniel Rossi, Nanocel
As devices get smaller, faster, and cheaper, they also get hotter. Nanocel uses a combination of microfluidics and novel plastic materials to cool devices more cheaply than other liquid-based systems and more efficiently than cooling fans, as Rachel wrote in a profile earlier this year. (Rossi also wrote a guest post for Xconomy during the UW Business Plan competition last year.) The startup’s local supporters and advisors include Rick LeFaivre, Patrick Ennis, and Brian Crowley. Nanocel has a working prototype, a $50,000 grant from UW, and three patents pending.
—Mikal Lewis, Qworky
Lewis is a former Microsoft veteran, so he knows about meetings. Qworky’s tagline is “meetings that don’t suck.” But it makes me wonder how much technology can really solve what seems to be a fundamental social problem in which people lose focus and efficiency in meetings. Nevertheless, Lewis’s company has a working prototype and website (and is working on building a community of meeting-goers). It’s also using its system to host its own meetings. The business model will be “freemium,” meaning free for the basic stuff, with paid premium features. And look out—the company will have an iPad app soon.
—Tom Damico, Zendorse
At first glance, this company might sound a bit like DigitalScirocco, another Seattle startup building a new online marketplace for content. But Zendorse is totally different: it is about viral sharing of digital content (music, video, and so forth) and smart recommendations among social networks—what some call “social commerce.” Its “Koitunes” service helps consumers buy and share music with their friends no matter whether they use Rhapsody or Last.fm or iTunes; same with movie reviews across Amazon or other retail sites. Damico says the business is based on selling digital content, and licensing Zendorse’s data and Web services.
The ending of the event felt a little anticlimactic, after a full afternoon of really interesting technologies, markets, and opportunities. But the overall winner, from a second audience vote, was InsideTrip, the air travel rating company. And Nanocel, the cooling startup, was the runner-up.
But ultimately this story isn’t about the winners, it’s about the trends. Software and tech still rules the early-stage investment roost in the Northwest. People are watching the online travel space closely, especially here in the backyard of Expedia, Farecast, and Bing Travel. And there is no dearth of diverse ideas coming from the entrepreneurs around us. Congratulations to all the presenters, and thanks to NWEN for organizing this stellar event.
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