From a robot that scours the Internet translating its more esoteric gibberish into digestible narratives for consumers, to a telemedicine startup helping people with mental health problems in rural areas, student entrepreneurs at this week’s DEMO conference in San Francisco gave the audience a mind-bending peek into the future of enterprise technology.
Hailing from the most prestigious corners of the academic landscape, three student teams had been chosen from 50 applicants, each getting six minutes to wow the tech insiders, angel investors and venture capitalists on hand Thursday for DEMO Enterprise Disruption: An Evening of Change Innovation.
“These are some of the greatest minds of their generation and they provide us a real good idea of where things are going,” said Stephen Gurney, a San Francisco investment banker with the Viant Group. “I came to learn about emerging technologies and hope to maybe help some of these entrepreneurs raise money with their IPOs.”
With the clock ticking, the first out of the gate was Teamitt, a sort of virtual superstructure that weaves together on a Facebook-like platform a company’s disparate elements, attempting to tap into its corporate essence in the process. Linking its employees and their work product to its email flow and corporate database, Teamitt, said one presenter, “combines process, people and data seamlessly in real time.”
Sumithra Jonnalagadda, who co-founded Mountain View-based Teamitt last year while at Stanford University, describes her product as a sort of unification tool that knocks down internal walls that have traditionally separated human resources, say, from accounting. Part of an emerging category of computer software, collaborative platforms like Teamitt allow far-flung employees to share documents, as well as a sense of community, all in real time.
Currently self-funded, Teamitt’s dozen or so employees are striving to “integrate work and personal lives,” said Jonnalagadda, “so that an employee’s personal life goals, like buying a home or making a million dollars, are part of their profile and then interwoven into their professional goals.”
For instance, an employee with a goal of buying a house could share their progress on the site with work colleagues who in turn could offer guidance, morale support or help in finding a loan.
Not every corporate warrior will enjoy having the line between home and office so dramatically blurred. But it’s an emerging trend and Jonnalagadda’s business card says it all: “24/7 Performance, 0 Waste.”
Next up was 1DocWay, a Web-based telemedicine company attempting to bring this cutting-edge technology into underserved rural pockets of America. Founder and Wharton School MBA student Samir Malik, 26, told the crowd that 50 million Americans live more than 60 miles from a medical specialist. And with drug addition and other mental health issues rising dramatically in rural areas, Malik says 1DocWay’s focus on psychiatric practices is “lowering the hurdle to behavioral health care.”
In his demo, Malik used 1DocWay to connect with a doctor’s office, check his schedule and make an appointment for a televisit. He clicked on the Start button and, in a secure chatroom compliant with federal health regulations, the doctor and patient met face-to-face ala a Skype chat, their entire visit archived in case either party wants to review the discussion later.
“Everything is browser-based, so no downloads, no plug-ins,” Malik said. “It’s ready to go right out of the box.”
During an investors panel after the presentation, Chris Schaepe with Lightspeed Venture Partners seemed impressed. “There’s a lot of need for this type of service out there,” he said, adding that simply helping health care providers with ways to electronically streamline office scheduling could make 1DocWay a hit with doctors and their staffs. “If you can help with that,” Schaepe said, “you’ve got a lot of potential to grow.”
Rounding out the student presentations, founder and CEO Mike Tung introduced Diffbot, a software robot that cruises the Web, turning URLs and other online gobbledygook into easy-to-digest website material. With Diffbot’s help, for instance, a developer could program a smartphone app to harvest information on a specific topic from around the Web, then assemble it all in one place for the user.
Tung, whose title is chief roboticist, started Diffbot as a graduate student at Stanford after writing a software program that kept track of his class schedule.
Diffbot, he said, “can break down and essentially recognize the category of a Web page, whether it’s a news page, a people page, a product page or an event page.”
As an example, Tung uses Editions by AOL, an online personalized daily magazine and one of Diffbot’s clients. AOL developers or users themselves give Diffbot the news sources they want included in their magazine. Then the robot goes to work, breaking down the essence of each page it sees, then fitting the material into Editions’ framework. Users end up with their very own online magazine, its stories custom tailored to their interests.
“It helps app developers interpret Web pages like a human being,” said Tung, who says Palo Alto-based Diffbot already has more than 1,000 customers using the tool.
“This is a great deal for us,” Tung said of his company being chosen to present at the conference. “DEMO charges presenters thousands of dollars to present at its other shows. We got to do it for free.”