New companies, continued: MusicShake, Cake Financial, Ponoko, TripIt standout

Ten more companies presented during today’s afternoon portion of the Techcrunch40 conference. If we were able to have stock in these companies, here’s the order we’d rank them: MusicShake, Cake Financial, Tripit, Ponoko, Everywhere, CrowdSpirit, DocStoc, Flock, StoryBlender and TeachThePeople. Summaries of each company follow.

MusicShake, a music-creation app
— This is site is winning kudos because it looks addictive. According to the logo on the webpage, it’s a “Music making game which is no need of intelligence.” Whether that’s really a translation mistake — the company is South Korean — is a matter of opinion, but it does reflect the whimsical attitude of the founders. MusicShake’s presentation started out with annoyingly-upbeat techno pumping out of the speakers, music that they claimed had been created by a 9 year old girl. And when they started to show off the app, it looked easy enough for even a child to make music at least as good as what’s played on commercial radio. The method is simple: Like existing music creation software, MusicShake provides instrumental sounds to users, who add them together to create songs. The difference is that MusicShake is both free to use and entirely intuitive. One possible drawback: Our immediate thought was that MusicShake provides a brilliant way to keep users anchored on a website, but the founders have chosen not to place any ads on the app. Instead, they claim that users will be able to sell the music they make, and split the revenue with the company. Its hard to sell to online, so the risk is that the company won’t make much.

Cake Financial, a great way to access investing information — We wrote a separate post about this company today. It gives you a way to see the historical performance of your portfolio, as well as and monthly and yearly performance data, on risk adjusted basis. You can see the portfolio holdings of other people, and how you compare with them. Angel investor Ron Conway invested in the company, but conceded he doesn’t that use the service, but lets Goldman Sachs make his investments. Yossi Yardi, an entrepreneur and investor, also on the panel of the presentation, gave him a hard time, Conway he wasn’t eating the “dog food.” One significant risk factor for this company: People may not want to expose less than stellar investment habits and decide not to participate? That might hamper adoption.

TripIt, a travel plans organizer — This service launched out of beta today. Rather than attempting to compete in the crowded booking space, dominated by giants like Expedia, TripIt aims to organize the avalanche of information that serial travelers face. Users can link in information from their travel plans — airline tickets, hotel bookings, tours, and so forth — and an app, cleverly called “the Itinerator”, gathers the most relevant information into an organized file, a process that CEO Gregg Brockaway calls “a baby step toward the semantic web.” Rather than stopping at organizing a traveler’s itinerary, TripIt then goes on to pull together information on the destinations being visited from outside sites like Wikipedia and Flickr. Finally, users can collaborate to put together group trips. TripIt benefited from a better thought-out presentation than most of the other companies, but also struck us as a solid business plan in a space that has so far been left more or less open.

Ponoko, a personal manufacturing platform — This is a fun company, letting you design any product by using a wizard that takes you through the process (say for a piece of jewelry, a piece of clothing or a lamp). It provides drop down menus of materials you can use, what they look like after they’ve been processed. Finally it will soon provide you tools to help sell the product and promote it. You can get design tips from others, or buy designs from others who have built things on the site. It has been in beta testing so far.

Everywhere, a community-generated magazine — 8020 Publishing, the company launching Everywhere today, has already met success with JPG Magazine, using nearly the same model. That’s perhaps the most important detail about the new magazine: While it won’t knock your socks off, the fact that 8020 is working from a tried-and-true model sets it apart from almost all the other companies by raising its chances of success. However, as a magazine play, its upside is limited too. Everywhere will work by starting a community for travelers to share pictures and stories, of which the best will be periodically pulled together into a glossy-paged publication. Overall, the magazine’s website looks similar to Flickr, with space to write stories.

CrowdSpirit, a company that uses “crowds” for designing consumer electronics — This lets end users submit designs for products. The submission gets rated by others, as well as feedback for improvement. It also then leverages fan of a particular product, and possible partners who might buy the product to distribute in retail. CrowdSpirit tells the product or application manufacturer when there appears to be enough demand from fans, and partner orders, for them to ship for manufacturing. The company will make money from rev from sold products.

Docstoc, the “YouTube for professional documents” — This company lets you post documents easily online, giving you a way to post them straight from your desktop. Others can come and read them or use them. We just wrote about this company’s funding round. The company has more extensive features than we’d previously realized. You can classify documents in detail, so that people can search for documents for say, a divorce lawyer, and Docstoc will show you the documents that have been most used by others in that category. People submitting doc can tag by category, or others can do it for them. People can vote documents according to usefulness. You’ll also be able to store your documents with Docstoc. The question about this company is how it will make money. The company says people may be willing to pay for extra storage and that it can make money that way, or by getting shared revenue by selling things like say, research reports from Gartner.

Flock, a browser dedicated to social networking — If you’re totally addicted to Facebook, Flock may be useful. The browser is all about streamlining social networking, adding value by easing interactions for hardcore social networkers. The question is whether enough people think of the internet as a platform for Facebook and Flickr to support an entire browser. As the drawn-out fight between Microsoft’s Explorer and Firefox has shown, people tend to stick with what they know unless the alternative is repeatedly shown to be inferior. Flock has been around for a while, having notched up almost 2 million downloads, in contract to Firefox, which is approaching 400 million. The big announcement today was that a pre-release of version 0.9 is now available to everyone for download, and version 1.0 is in private beta. For our previous analysis for Flock, see this post.

StoryBlender, collaborative video creation — Allows you to “blend” videos, putting together parts of different videos and adding in simple animation effects. Anyone familiar with professional video editing would laugh this app out of the room, but the point is to simplify enough that the average person can put together a simple mashup. Storyblender allows collaboration, and can show a visual timeline detailing the chain of people working on any particular video. The concept is mildly interesting, but is less polished (from the demo at least) than MusicShake. An encouraging detail is that its CEO is the founder of Cyworld, a social network that holds a near-monopoly in the South Korean market.

TeachThePeople, a “peer-to-peer” collaborative education service — This company lets experts try to make money from their knowledge. So someone like Marc Andreessen, a well-known entrepreneur, might try to sell advice to first-time entrepreneurs. Andreessen would do this by creating a “community,” outlining the details of his offering, the category it belongs in, goals, and how he wants share his knowledge. He can appoint community managers for his site to help him manage subscribers, and he set different layers of access for subscribers to the community. It gives him space to load lectures. The company makes money by sharing in advertising, if Andreessen offers his service for free, or in revenue if he charges. There’s chat, too. The downside is that it’s hard to get people to buy things over the Internet, and experts already have a number of voice as and Web-based alternatives for selling their services. The company is seeking a round of funding.

(This was co-written with Matt Marshall)

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