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Monday, May 7, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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ZenZui startup wows tech forum

Declining discs


The percentage of Americans who have bought music CDs in the past six months has dropped 15 percent since 2002.

Source: Ipsos

The WSA, the Washington state technology-industry trade organization, held a one-day investment forum last week featuring more than 19 startups pitching their ideas to venture capitalists.

As part of the event at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, panelists made up of VCs and local executives scored each company on its business model, management team, market analysis, products and presentation in three industries — wireless, digital media and software.

The winner of the "Best Sales Pitch" and "Best and Brightest" was ZenZui, a Seattle company whose technology was recently spun out of Microsoft and is creating a new way to find content on a cellphone.

There's no question why.

Although the companies had only 10 minutes to breeze through a presentation, co-founder John SanGiovanni spoke rapidly and with an enthusiasm that stood out from the normal PowerPoint sales pitch.

His presentation drew a handful of reactions:

From panelist Robert Gary, an executive director at AT&T: "What kind of coffee do you drink?"

That question sparked an audience member to say, "It's not what kind, it's how much!" Yet another person added: "That 10-minute presentation covered 45 minutes of ground."

Other winners for best funding and sales pitches included: FlowPlay, RIPL, Bag Borrow or Steal, Attenex and Mobile Semiconductor.

Tech spectrum

Gadget geeks, brace yourselves for this information: You make up about 8 percent of the population.

Most Americans say they use the Internet or cellphones, and many have broadband connections, digital cameras and video-game systems.

But only 8 percent of adults actually exploit the full extent of modern technology, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project on information and communication technology users coming out today.

Pew said these people are concerned about information overload, a sense that gadgets have more capacity than they can master. Overall, things like blogging and creating videos for YouTube are not for them. For some people, it's all about the inability to afford or their unwillingness to buy the gear that would bring them into the digital age.

On one side of the scale, there's the 8 percent called "omnivores," who have the most gadgets, which they use voraciously.

On the other end of the spectrum are the people in the "off the network" category. At 15 percent of the U.S. population, they don't have cellphones or Internet connectivity. A few have computers or digital cameras, but they are content with old media.

Ballmer at UW

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was interviewed at the University of Washington business school in a USA Today story last week. Here are a few of the fun things he had to say.

On Microsoft's culture: "I think Microsoft tends to err on the side of having less groupthink and more cacophony than most other places."

On his relationship with Bill Gates: "Brothers stick together; that doesn't mean brothers are always having a simple and easy relationship."

On whether Vista is Microsoft's last operating system: "Nothing we've said should cause people to think that way. There will be a Vista. There will be a Vista plus one. There will be a Vista plus two, plus three."

On Google's products: "They've come out with what I might call — what's the politically correct way of saying it? — they've come out with some of the lowest functionality, lowest capability applications of all time."

On missing the advertising boat: "Really understanding the power of advertising as an Internet business model we came to later than I wish we had. That's the No. 1 thing I regret. We underinvested in some opportunities for a while."

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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