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innovation showdown winner

The cloud, like any industry, depends on a steady flow of innovative new ideas.

Nine companies competed at VentureBeat’s CloudBeat 2011 conference, showing off new ways to make IT managers feel more comfortable with the cloud, new ways to use the cloud as a customer service center and more.

The contest was judged by Luis Robles, a venture capitalist with Sequoia Capital; Robert Abbott, a general partner with Norwest Venture Partners; John Lee, a director at SVB Accelerator; and Steve Phillpott, chief information officer at Amylin Pharmaceuticals.


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Check out our competition contestants and scroll to the bottom to find out who won!

GigaSpaces Cloudify makes it easier for companies to move into the cloud. It’s a difficult transition, especially when you have familiar applications that have been coded and set on your existing infrastructure. Cloudify allows you to transfer these existing applications into the cloud without have to recode, and is agnostic about the type of stack, data storage and overall kind of applications it is. IT managers can make the transition to any infrastructure including Amazon Web Services and Azure. A dashboard allow you to control your applications once they have entered the cloud and ensure no overages.

myERP chief executive Francois Nadal believes that business apps are too complex and haven’t changed in the last ten years. So, he created a search based manager, which houses all the separate applications we employ in small businesses today. These include a customer relationship manager, invoicing, project, accounting, inventory and more, all integrated into Google Apps.

Nadal says, “You don’t need to understand myERP, myERP understands you.”

The search function understands natural language, such as “What is my profit?” and a drop down will show the profits and loss sheet, with editing capabilities. myERP is focused on small to medium sized businesses, and considers itself in competition with QuickBooks.

In the “bring your own device” world that businesses are moving toward, security and control are big concerns for IT managers. Oxygen Cloud tries to solve for the BYOD desires of both the business side and the IT side. Employees on the business side want to be able to access files from anywhere, on the phone, iPad and on their computers. There’s no real way to be synced up other than using file sharing products DropBox or Box, which usually gives IT managers the security willies. So, Oxygen Cloud created its SaaS product that allows IT managers to connect not to an Oxygen Cloud server, but rather their own server. They can control who is able to access specific files, and pull files back in seconds when a person has been taken off permissions.

OfficeDrop also connects headquarters and workers in the field through file sharing, but it doesn’t end with the ability to share and manage users. Its mobile application allows small businesses to create and share files in the field. The company used the example of a cleaning service. At the end of a job, cleaners would need to fill out a proof of completion sheet, and take a picture of their work for the executives back at head quarters. Using the mobile app, workers can scan the completed sheet and take the picture of their cleaned room, which is created into a file and sent to the file share dashboard.

OfficeDrop does offer a freemium model, but has a subscription model for larger businesses.

For TalkDesk, “phone is still king.” That is to say, customers still want to talk to someone on the phone when they are looking for customer service. But this is a very hefty expense on the small business side. To lift a bit of the load, TalkDesk using Twilio’s APIs created a way for people to call in and be directed to appropriate employees within the SMB, avoiding creating and employing an entire call center. But it goes deeper than a voice over IP application. You can choose numbers in different locations and countries, and dedicate them to different causes, for instance, sales. After you’ve chosen the “agents” or employees in your business who will receive these calls, you can tag them with a certain department. This leads the application to direct the call to that specific person.

The application keeps a record of calls, transcripts and contact information associated with the calls, and allows you to input contacts as well. If you have an existing CRM, you can tether it to TalkDesk, which supports Salesforce, Google Contacts, SugarCRM, and more.

Storing your data and applications in public or private clouds doesn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden experience. At least that’s the promise of VirtualSharp Software. The company makes next-generation disaster recovery tools for clouds. Its value proposition is that its potentially lifesaving service requires no installation and is fully automated.

VirtualSharp has several dozen paying customers, CEO Carlos Escapa explained to the judges, and has just added new features to enable public cloud providers to offer disaster recovery services.

Visier, a startup going after report-hungry organizations, hopes to revolution the analytics market. Its approach is to do most of the heavy lifting, automate analytics and eliminate the time it takes for a company to go from analytics to reports — a process, strategies and solutions head Dave Weisbeck said, normally takes most organizations nine months to complete.

Visier’s first product, workforce analytics, is an application that takes in an organization’s employee data and spits out insights and predicators on things like attracting and retaining top talent.

If small businesses are going to market themselves effectively and standout from the crowd, they need great business management tools that run on mobile devices. Xiimo thinks it’s mobile-friendly dashboard and point-of-sale system is the key to small business success.

The startup makes software that enables the small business owner to publish and distribute promotions, accept mobile payments, manage loyalty incentives and programs, track customers and manage the entire purchase process. The system integrates with Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook for easy social distribution, and connects to PayPal and Kiva for financial assistance.

Zadara Storage, explained co-founder Mark Spowart, provides enterprise-class storage in public clouds. The startup allows customers to build their own private virtual storage arrays in the cloud. “Every time we give you an element, we dedicate it you,” Spowart said.

The solution is meant to replicate the standard data center array and help organizations bring IT applications into the cloud that could otherwise not exist there securely, provide them with privacy and individual user control, and let them create virtual arrays in seconds.

And the winner of the Innovation Showdown is… Zadara Storage. Congratulations, Zadara, and thanks to all our contestants!

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