Business

Hackers and entrepreneurs feel the love at DEMO Fall 2010

Honestly, who do you have to fund to get people into a swimming pool around here? I’m at the DEMO Fall 2010 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., a venerable technology event which has moved to Silicon Valley for the first time. And boy, is it serious business.

The notion was to take the festival of company and product launches into the heart of technology, and give entrepreneurs closer access to the critical mass of dealmakers, investors, and reporters who live and work in the Bay Area.

VentureBeat editor-in-chief Matt Marshall, the event’s executive producer, charged me with directing our coverage of the event, and when I’m not busy doing that, injecting a note of frivolity into the events on Twitter and in the real world. So I unilaterally declared a pool party for Tuesday night.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. (Snaps to the loyal VentureBeatniks and curious passers-by who showed up.) Maybe at DEMO Spring 2011.

The truth is that most entrepreneurs are in the business because, for them, work is fun. Doing deals, building teams, creating products are what charges them up. So maybe I should have known better than to try luring them away from the frenetic networking at the DEMO After Dark party.

There was a lot of fun business, though. First Round Capital partner Christine Herron was taken by the Taiwanese duo of James Jan and Jeremiah Tu of RawLaro Studio, who showed off what everyone at the conference dubbed the “love pillow.” (That’s Jan, above, showing off a pillow to Allison Moore of Bluepoint Venture Marketing, a DEMO attendee.)

Jan and Tu’s Internet-connected pillows sense and communicate through touch sensors. Hug one pillow, and the other one glows. Herron called it a “real-world poke,” after Facebook’s informal communication feature.

Those kinds of informal interactions off the main stage are the heart of DEMO. I spotted influential connectors like Google’s Don Dodge and Hummer Winblad’s Mitchell Kertzmann, a DEMO advisory board member, roaming the halls and holding court at dinner. Bump Network CEO Mitch Thrower told me he’s had conversations with six investor groups as a result of unveiling his driver-license-based social network and image tagging service.

The conference has a long history of leading to funding rounds, acquisitions, and key business partnerships. I’m betting we’ll see a lot of deals out of this extra-serious DEMO.

I’m kind of rooting for Jan and Tu, though. It’s not immediately clear how they’ll make money off the idea of connecting real-world objects for social interactions. But I know if people like to throw virtual sheep and fertilize each other’s virtual gardens online, they’ll likely gravitate to electronic devices that connect them rather than isolate them. In a way, it’s the perfect embodiment of the three trends Marshall outlined for this fall’s DEMO — a product that’s mobile, social, and in the cloud.

And, most importantly, it’s fun. Expect more and more of that at DEMO.

In the Bay Area? Join the DEMO community at the Avalon nightclub in Santa Clara Wednesday, September 15, at 8 p.m. while tickets are still available.

Photo by Stephen Brashear/New Media Synergy for the DEMO Conference


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