Venture Capital Innovation

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Innovation is Alive and Well on the Web!
by Mike Banks Valentine

I've just returned from the Upside Events 2001 Showcase held
in Palm Springs, California and find it hard to believe the
creativity and innovation surrounding the web! The show is
designed as a forum for entrepreneurs to present their ideas
to a panel of venture capitalists with the goal of securing
funding for their start-up company. The show gathered over
70 hand picked "demonstrators" offering their best face to
the assembled crowd of journalists, potential partners and
attendees of the event.

One of the frustrations of small business online is that most
new web solutions and tools are targeted at
gigantic companies looking for "enterprise solutions",
"legacy systems", and "infrastructure tools". The attempt I
made was to specifically focus on the tools and products aimed
at Small Office Home Office (SOHO) crowd, I paid little or no
attention to those "" solutions.

My personal Best of Show goes to a great small business
networking solution called NetWinder that lets the non-tech
small business owner run a network server for under $2000!
It can be set up and run by a novice via a browser based
interface either in-house or remotely. It allows web site
hosting on a Linux based system. Sold by a company called It is fully programmable by an expert or can be
run by technophobes with no training whatsoever via the
browser based interface. Wonderful solution for the small
business that doesn't want to hire their own Information
Technology guy but does want to host their own website and
network the small office.

The best mobile worker tool I saw was from a company called which allows remote access to any computer via
a password protected web interface from ANYWHERE! Incredibly
valuable for accessing that stuff back at the office from a
client office or a laptop without all the software that
drives it from the desktop. You actually see the desktop
of the host computer back at the office or home or workplace
or all of the above from even a Palm Pilot or mobile phone!
Really incredible use of the web to advance mobile commerce.

My vote for the best multi-use tool for small business or home
office was a voice command cordless phone and headset with
voice enabled applications via the headset. You can see it at where you'll see a small headset that weighs
only an ounce which wirelessly connects to a modem-sized
unit on your desktop that connects via serial cable or USB to
your PC and can control multiple applications by voice command
to your computer! Really want one of those myself!

The sponsors (Upside Magazine) Best of Show award went to a
company called which allows those with multiple
phones and voicemail boxes to incorporate them all through a
service which will dial all the phones at once and send the
voicemail to a single mailbox of your choice if none of the
phones are answered. Great for mobile workers, telecommuters
and small businesses in general.

Another wonderful small business tool for mobile workers is
called Nomad from which offers a great way to
receive filtered high priority email via (simulated) voice
over the phone with voice commands hands free. Once you get
back to an internet connection to download email, you can
also listen to the email right from the email client.

Another Showcase Award winner was a company called MoonFruit.
They offer a semi-template based Flash web site creation tool
for those willing to accept hosting from Moonfruit on a sub-
domain. There are currently no options to download the site
once you've created your flash masterpiece and FTP to your own

They claim that they will offer that service to small business
in the future, but it is currently limited to a consumer market.
They suggest the possibility of adding the ecommerce capabilities
to their online flash site creation "soon". It will be great if
they offer the currently unavailable option of ecommerce and
true domain names, but it's not there yet. Appeal to a mass
market is the first step.

Then there was the redesigned keyboard from which
looks like a game controller console but is actually a fully
functioning keyboard! This story here is more about the
entrepreneurial spirit of someone willing to teach us to type
in an entirely new way to allow work without a desk from any
position. Brave, brave folks with a really cool idea. This
innovative goody is one I wanted to take home immediately but
it's still in development and seeking licensing partners and

Imagine reclining in an easy chair, typing using mostly the back
surface of what appears to be a video game controller! It has
eight multi-function keys on the back where your fingers rest,
mouse controls under your thumbs and the shift and space keys
near the mouse controls. The inventor claims you can teach
yourself to type this way in a week and from then on be free
of your desk.

If all of this fun stuff doesn't really excite you about the
future of the web, then there may truly be no future for the
web. I'm heartened by the continuing spirit of innovation
and invention and wish each of these entrepreneurs great good
luck and future funding!

WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Ezine emphasizing small business online
e-tutorial online at:
By week's end you're ready expand your business to the web!

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July 29, 2001