The 1st Annual Tech Startup Draft

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Friday marks Day 2 of one of the most entertaining events in sports – the National Football League’s amateur draft. Whether your team was awful enough to secure a pick in the top three, shrewd enough to trade for a higher selection or lucky enough to get the next Tom Brady in the middle rounds, the NFL Draft offers players, teams and fans much-needed hope on many different levels.

And like professional sports, the Web world is largely made up of hopes and dreams. Startup companies come and go faster than rookies in training camp. Some of them come out of nowhere to have Hall of Fame careers, while others are surrounded by hype and fail to live up to expectations – doomed to be labeled a bust until the end of time.

So, in the spirit of the moment, WM has decided to hold its own Tech Startup Draft in which three opposing general managers select the “players” they believe will give their teams the best chance to win. Some picks are based on reputation, others on sheer agility as witnessed during hours of film study, and still others are just hunches, plain and simple. Regardless, you may want to take notes and help us determine which, if any, of the following startups will be the next Google or Facebook.

Let the draft begin:

Round 1

First selection goes to associate editor Michael Garrity:

I’m going big in the first round and selecting TwitVid, a startup so impressive that it can boast Justin Bieber as a documented user. TwitVid is a safe and proven pick (it’s already over twice as big as any other Twitter video-sharing service) that will almost surely have a long and successful career, despite some opposing general managers’ concerns about the social network’s durability. The idea behind this pick is simple: Twitter is one of the Web’s biggest media-sharing sources, and everybody loves video, so why not pair them up? TwitVid has created a seamless experience for finding, watching and sharing online videos, which is facilitated by allowing users to categorize their videos to make them easier for relevant viewers to find.

Second selection goes to associate editor Allison Howen:

The first pick of my 2012 Tech Startup Draft goes to Uservoice, which is a tool that addresses one of the main components of running a successful business – customer service. This San Francisco startup has created a tool that companies can use to help them focus on delivering excellent customer service in three important areas for Web businesses, including collecting and responding to customer feedback, quickly dealing with support issues and automatically deflecting common questions. The startup was launched in 2008 and offers feedback and help desk software in four different models, ranging from free to $125 per month.

Third selection goes to senior editor Linc Wonham:

Like Michael, for my first pick I am going with a big name that’s already received a lot of fanfare. He’s no Justin Bieber, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has openly endorsed Codecademy and claims to be learning to code via this tutorial website that launched last summer. Other achievements in Codecademy’s short career thus far include being named to Time magazine’s recent 10 NYC Startups to Watch article, our version of a ringing endorsement from NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper.

Round 2

First selection goes to associate editor Michael Garrity:

Finding good apps is hard these days, so with my second pick I’m going to go with Appsfire, a tool that allows developers to promote their mobile applications and helps users find the apps that will be most useful to them. Many mobile devices or tablets out there aren’t being used to their full potential because users are forced to search through thousands of applications to find the ones that will best provide them with the services or information they want. Likewise, a lot of developers may have great apps to offer, but have a lot of trouble getting them into the hands of users. Appsfire has been working hard to build a community that lets developers promote their work and allows users to share their favorite apps with friends, making the whole process of finding and sharing apps much more practical and efficient for everyone involved. I consider this pick to be a sure thing.

Second selection goes to associate editor Allison Howen:

My second-round pick goes to Metail, a virtual fitting room service for fashion retailers. Although this newer technology is my gamble of the draft, hopefully the reward will outweigh the risk for this relatively untested prospect. The London startup enables customers to create a 3D photo-realistic model of themselves from two uploaded photos, in which they can then virtually try on clothes. The reason this startup is a gamble is because it is still fairly new, with Tesco Clothing recently becoming the first retailer to launch the Metail virtual fitting room at the end of February 2012.

Third selection goes to senior editor Linc Wonham:

My second pick is a sentimental one because the founder of SendGrid is a startup icon in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, home of my alma mater. Jim Franklin is no rookie when it comes to entrepreneurial greatness, and his latest hot prospect is already used by proven stars such as Foursquare, Spotify, Pinterest and Hootsuite. SendGrid is an email cloud cloud service that currently sends out more than 3 billion emails per month and more than 30 billion in its three-year history. The company recently landed more than $20 million in funding and will now be the default email service for all apps using the Microsoft cloud. This one's a steal for the second round.

Round 3

First selection goes to associate editor Michael Garrity:

For my third and final pick, I’m going out on a limb with Nuji, an interesting idea that hasn’t yet caught on but could potentially change the way Web retailers target customers. Leveraging the widespread interest in the social Web and combining it with the practicality of wish lists, this site lets users “clip” apparel and accessories from retail websites and bookmark them in their Nuji accounts to go back and purchase later. Nuji also socializes the whole experience, as users can follow other people to see what items they tag to help them discover new stuff. The site even makes it possible for retailers to offer rewards and discounts to users who tag their items. Some may call me crazy for this largely unproven selection, but I say if you want to win, you’ve got to take a few risks.

Second selection goes to associate editor Allison Howen:

My last pick for the 2012 Tech Startup Draft is Grabio, a location-based marketplace app that connects buyers and sellers within a close proximity of each other. The app is similar to Craigslist, but it enables buyers and sellers to post and search for items in real-time and in nearby locations. Then, users can connect with each other through the app to set up their exchange. Although a great idea, the reason that this is a late-round pick is because this startup already has a lot of competition. Besides Craigslist, numerous other online listing sites and marketplaces also pose a threat to the success of Grabio, which is really going to have to show me something in training camp.

Third selection goes to senior editor Linc Wonham:

Sometimes in the draft you just have to follow your gut, and when I heard that the idea for TaskRabbit was conceived thanks in part to a dog named Kobe who lives in Boston, I had to make it my final pick. TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that leverages the latest social, mobile and location-based technologies to bring neighbors together to complete tasks for each other. Forgetful, busy people like myself can outsource small errands such as picking up their dry cleaning through the use of this collaborative consumption service, as in the case of one of the founders, who was already in a cab rushing to make a dinner reservation when she realized she’d forgotton to feed Kobe.

Well, that concludes this year’s Tech Startup Draft, thanks for coming …

 
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