6 Cool Tech Startups That Will Change Your Business

Last Updated Apr 20, 2011 1:53 PM EDT

Last week, TechStars, one of the most elite incubator/accelerator programs for startups, graduated its first New York class at Demo Day in front of a packed to the rafters audience of investors, journalists, and tech groupies. Co-founder David Cohen noted that over the course of the three-month program, which had over 600 applicants, there were more than 234 pizzas delivered and 700 meetings with 100 mentors. Why should you care? Because at least six of the 11 companies that showed their stuff to investors last Friday are very likely to change the way you do business. Some are still in Beta, so you'll see very little when you click through to their websites, but keep a close eye on them and you may just get a leg up on your competitors when they're really to roll: Immersive Labs has developed software that makes digital signs smarter so that advertisers are more likely to reach their target audience. Signs are equipped with a camera that identifies the age and gender of passersby (okay, it's a bit creepy). Say, for example, that a young man passes in front of a digital ad for tampons. A sign enabled with Immersive Labs technology will instantly shift to a more demographically appropriate ad, like one for Bud Light, for example. The technology also measures level of engagement by tracking the number of times a viewer looks away. Of course, everything is uploaded to an online analytics dashboard; the whole system allows companies to "deliver the right message to the right person at the right time," said co-founder Jason Sosa.

Red Rover makes a peer-to-peer learning platform for companies that's like "a company directory on steroids," says co-founder Kevin Prentiss. People in big companies waste a lot of time looking for information that might be tucked away in, say, the brain of someone in the Shanghai office. Red Rover creates a company database of profiles that includes personal expertise, and allows co-workers to find and tap one another as resources. Questions are asked on the platform and the answers become part of the company's collective knowledge base. I originally thought this was useful mostly to huge companies, but then it seemed to me that it could also be great for smaller, virtual organizations with employees in various locations.
ThinkNear describes itself as "yield management for local merchants." Co-founder Eli Portnoy notes that most retailers who use daily deal companies like Groupon and Living Social end up driving traffic to their stores during peak times. ThinkNear brings merchants more customers during slow times by working with mobile ad networks to ping nearby mobile devices with coupon offers that expire within, say, an hour. Merchants pay a flat fee for the service.

Friendslist. Can this tiny upstart unseat Craig's List? That's what co-founder Jonathan Wegener is hoping to do. Friendslist is a classified listing service that taps into your social networks because "people are the best brand and the best marketer," says Wegener. The business connects buyers, sellers, and people who are looking for apartments or jobs through people they already know. Think of it as a private marketplace, with no scams or duplicate listings. I think this has tremendous potential for small businesses seeking to hire employees, or contractors.

OnSwipe Makes it "insanely easy" for web publishers to migrate their content to touch enabled devices like the iPad. It's basically drop-dead gorgeous. The company is partnering with WordPress to integrate its product into all WordPress blogs, so if you have one, the service will be free to you. OnSwipe will make money by putting ads among your content. This is a terrific way for publishers, and companies with blogs, to get their content onto the iPad quickly and cheaply.

Crowdtwist brings corporate loyalty into the digital age by rewarding customers wherever they interact with a brand, whether it's on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or your company's own website. Co-founder Irving Fain says the company's campaign with Live Nation increased online engagement by 900% and doubled ticket sales over last year. Customers earn points when they engage with a brand on line, and can redeem points for rewards like t-shirts and posters. A Crowdtwist campaign also allows you to tap into the highly lucrative virtual currency market since it allows customers to purchase points to earn rewards faster.

Which one of these new technologies do you think would be of use to your business?

Further reading:

Do You Have What it Takes to be a TechStar?
Cool Startups to Watch in 2011: Hipmunk
College Grads:10 Reasons Why Your First Job Should be With a Startup