Well, that was rough.
Enterprise mobile startup Appconomy just announced a new app called Groupin at today’s Launch conference in San Francisco. The idea is that everyone belongs to groups on different social networking services, but they might want to collaborate across all those sites. So with Groupin, they can participate in discussions that stretch across groups and networks, and it includes email as well.
The demonstration went fine. I could imagine people using the product, although the pitch of mobile chat and cross-network communication sounds familiar. More noteworthy than the presentation itself was the response from the expert judges — who were, in a word, unimpressed.
David Sacks, a former PayPal executive and now chief executive of Yammer, asked what someone could do in Groupin that they couldn’t do in a Facebook Group. The point, said Appconomy chief executive Brian Magierski, is to reach users outside of Facebook too, but Sacks said that’s an ever-shrinking number of people, and it also leaves out the early-adopter crowd that startups should be targeting.
George Zachary of Charles River Ventures, who invested in Yammer, added that the groups market seems awfully crowded — he estimated that he sees pitches for at least two group startups per week.
To cap things off, Dave McClure of 500 Startups said that if Groupin is focused on the consumer market, “You’re going to get killed unless you’re best in class.” He also complained that Magierski seemed “bored” by his own presentation.
To be fair, Magierski responded to the criticisms, acknowledging that there are a lot of group apps but arguing that they’re either focused on text messaging or creating a separate channel for communication, rather than connecting to existing tools. And SGN chief executive Shervin Pishevar suggested that the judges were being a little rough, joking that McClure had become the “Gaddafi of startups.”
After the presentation, conference organizer Jason Calacanis said, “We didn’t promise it would be easy.”
Appconomy has raised $1.5 million from True Ventures and is based in Austin.