The ETel Launchpad Startups

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At Etel last night we had our first Launchpad event co-hosted by Surj Patel and Om Malik. Seven startups showed us their goods. We tried something new for this launchpad — voting. Using Mozes‘ SMS-based voting system the audience was able to vote for their favorite Launchpad entry.

Here are the companies that were featured:

1) Grandcentral – The premise: phone number shouldn’t be tied to a device or location. They do this by providing you with a number. Once your calls are routed through GrandCentral then you get a lot of extra features such as listening to voicemails as they are being left, one-button recording during a call, voicemails based on the caller. Grandcentral was one of the leaders in our attendee voting.

2) Jive Software – The premise: Adding SIP (for calling out), Jingle (Google’s format for comptuer-to-computer calls) and XMPP (for streaming structured XML) to open source client OpenFire. Their take is that voice is the key to collaboration. An interesting prediction from them: IM will be the only thick client to survive the webification of the desktop.

3) CellCrypt – The premise: A client app that will encrypt your voice mail end-to-end. The keys are on the handset. They made it easy for the proverbial “mom”, think HTTPS vs. PGP. Release 2.4 will be out next week.

4) Peerant – The premise: A new start-up with a Ruby-based P2P telephony platform that provides programmatic access to Skype functionality. The “first product launched at ETel is a click-to-call application with all the features of a state-of-the-art distributed contact center running on top of the Skype network.” Later this year they will be opening up their API.

5) MySay – The premise: Social networking via one number. You call a number, get the update from friends, hear friends messages, and leave your own message. You can also publish your message publicly and in categories. It will have a Yahoo! widget as well. The beta from this Irish start-up is launching at the beginning of April. It is Twitter for voice.

6) Flat Phone Company – The premise: quite simply start your own Phone 2.0 telco. Billing, numbers everything! Yes you can brand yourself as a telco with the next gen services.

7) Mig33 – The premise: Create VoIP calls between any two phones. IM and share photos via MSN, Yahoo!, Mig33, and others. It has chat rooms as well. This is done via an ultra-light J2ME client. Their desktop VoIP client and AJAXy website gets very little use compared to the client. As a note they are moving to the Bay Area and are hiring. As a sidenote, their first slide was mysteriously labeled “Project Goth”. Mig33 was one of the leaders in our attendee voting.

The voting was an interesting twist on our Launchpad. Immediate feedback on the level of audience grokking is valuable to entries that get few or a lot of votes. Perhaps the message needs to be clearer, perhaps the product is for a different audience, or perhaps a little whizbang should be added. Thanks to all of the Launchpad entries and audience members who participated.