DEMOfall 08: Our Top 10 to Out Perform

This week marks the start of our search for the companies and products that will make their debut at DEMO 09, March 1 to 3, in Palm Springs, California.  But before DEMOfall 08  becomes a distant spot in the rear view mirror, it’s imperative that Guidewire Group puts the cap on that event by selecting the 10 companies of DEMOfall 08 that we think will outperform among this remarkably talented group of companies that presented at the event in September.

The practice of highlighting 10 companies was spurred on by IDG Ventures’ Pat Kenealy, who challenged me at DEMO 08 to identify the companies at the conference that would out-perform typical venture portfolio metrics.  And thus began what with this second issue is a new tradition: Guidewire Group’s list of the 10 companies we predict will prove  most fundable, and most profitable, of the portfolio that is the demonstrating class of each DEMO Conference.  This is no easy task.  Carla and I spent months screening hundreds of companies in order to identify the Class of DEMOfall 2008.   In each company, we found something innovative and important, so calling out just 10 companies is a bit like asking a mother to identify her favorite children.

As with the DEMO 08 Top 10 List, I decided to wait a few weeks for the post-DEMO media to play out so as not to influence coverage of any of the 72 DEMOfall 08. But now, the time has come. So here, in no particular order, are the Guidewire Group Top 10 of DEMOfall 08:

Plastic Logic, Ltd. is leading the way in the development of plastic electronics technology to create a range of products, the first of which is the Plastic Logic electronic display.  This flexible, rugged, and highly-readable display takes a giant step toward the vision of electronic paper – displays as lightweight and reliable as paper with the storage capacity and versitility of a computer screen.  There is certainly a long road and many challenges ahead, to be sure.  But with another milestone hit early this month — the company opened its manufacturing facility in Germany, Plastic Logic is on its way to becoming an important player in the future of digital media.

Cerego, LLC delivers a unique and effective learning environment, well founded in neuroscience and made relevant for today’s learns by its use of the social web.  The iKnow! service today focuses on English language learning for the Japanese market, but the approach and technology is very broadly applicable in consumer and educational learning environments.  At a time when technology must be leveraged to support educational objectives, we think Cerego has tremendous potential to grow independently.  Yet we wouldn’t be surprised at all if the company caught the eyes of some of the leading educational software, or even gaming and entertainment, companies.

Microstaq, Inc.’s Silicon Expansion Valve is, in a word, breakthrough.  Using MEMs technology, the company has created a component with the potential to transform industries as diverse as automobiles and air conditioning.  This remarkable valve in silicon increases reliability, decreases costs, and delivers advantages in sustainable product design.   Microstaq is in a unique position to become a critically important provider of key componentry.  We expect this company to be a future IPO winner.

Infovell, Inc. had developed search technology that puts the emphasis on finding relevant material in the deep Web, a radically different, deeper, and in many ways more important advance in search technologies from the consumer Web search concepts that seem to grab headlines.  The company’s dynamic indexing and taxonomy algorithms sufface content that most other search engines miss.  Infovell will become a significant enterprise software provider with IPO (yes, there will be an IPO market again one day) or substantial acquisition in its future.

Usable Security Systems offers the simplest, yet most secure, consumer password scheme we’ve come across.  The company needs to cross the gap from beta to production software and gather  market validation. When it does – and we’re confident it will — we expect this smart little startup will catch the eye of the big security firms and not stay a little independent startup for very long.

Green Sherpa has achieved something that the personal finance giants and the major banks have been unable to do: create a rich, full-featured online personal finance management program.  This company has to be in the sights of Intuit, Microsoft, and – once they get the sand out of their eyes — consumer banks.

Maverick Mobile Solutions, Pvt. Ltd was the darling of DEMOfall because without exception people in the audience could relate to the company’s Maverick Secure Mobile solution. The service insures that the data on your phone is safe and protected, and its tracking and alarm technology insures that any mobile theif will suffer the consequences of his bad judgement.  This product is just the tip of the creative team’s innovation iceberg; they are leading the way in truely usable and important mobile products.  Expect Maverick Mobile Solutions to hit the North American market big time, perhaps riding in on the acquisition of major carrier or handset manufacturer.

Fusion-io is an encore performer at DEMO; the company introduced its original solid-state storage solution at DEMOfall 07.  So perhaps the company;s longer track record gives unfair advantage to the prediction of their success. I assure you, if I’d been picking Top 10s a year ago, Fusion-io would have been on it.  This company continues to drive the state of the art in storage solutions and will grow handsomely unless a very smart storage or data services company rides in and buys them up before they have the change to get big.

UGA Digital’s YouGotPhoto is a risky choice for this list.  The company just edges out DEMOfall 08 classmate Trinity Convergence for a spot on this list, and it will most certainly face challenges from photo giant Kodak before their story is finally written.  But we found YouGotPhoto to have such tremendous potential as a platform for managing digital content, both in consumer and industrial markets, that we’re backing this dark horse all the way.  UGA Digital has a smart team, strong backing, and is operating smack in the middle of the consumer electronics design and manufacturing ecosystem.  That shifts the odds and tells us this company has the opportunity to break away from the pack.

TetraBase, LLC grabs the final slot on our list (although we could justify one or two additional choices if we’d not committed to just 10).  This company’s data co-processing technology addresses a critical need in enterprise data centers that are grinding to a hault due to data overload.  The technology fixes what more servers and bandwidth cannot, and as such will become a must-have component in data-heavy enterprise applications.  Look to one of the major DBMS players to take a shine to TetraBase sooner than later.

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