Winners and head scratchers at LaunchFest pitch night


Party until you invest.

I counted eight start-up companies at tonight's Digital Hollywood Launchfest, held in conjunction with CES.

There might have been more. It was hard to tell exactly how many hopefuls were looking to impress a panel of angel investors. By the time I got there, the event was more party than anything else. But the music and investor pitches made for a good mix at Planet Hollywood.

Raw Porter aims to put money in the pocket of amateur paparazzi. It's an online photo agency. If you get a juicy picture or video, you upload it and wait for the offers to come in. Editors can also post requests, and if you're in the neighborhood, you just grab your camera and go.

“We know sensational sells,” said Kevin Davis, one of the three co-founders. They take 20% of anything you make over $200. Less than that, and the service is free.

Universal Broadband Communications was showing its Black Box network service, which provides online educational content to schools, and then bridges the gap to home by providing tablets and free access to course materials and student performance data. It's not really an investment play – they're relying on grant funding to pay the bills. But so far, so good.

Other contenders included…

  • Amicroe Touchtab, a $100 retail tablet,
  • Liquid Helium, an online service that automatically turns long online articles into short digests,
  • The Craze, an IPTV box,
  • Scayl, an email platform that lets you send big files,
  • Social media monthly, a consumer magazine for people who want to read about social media.

And Montaro, which has an interesting twist on a low cost telepresence robot. But more on them later.


About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.