WHILE THE DUBLIN Web Summit is better known for its exhibitors and speakers, this year the conference is also hosting a competition for start-up firms pitching for investment from its high-flying attendees.
The ‘Spark of Genius’ contest, sponsored by Electric Ireland, will see 100 firms pitch for investments from the summit’s 3,000 attendees, with the group being whittled down to 12 before the final four take to the summit’s main stage to ask for help in making it big.
The pitches will be judged by a panel including Kevin Rose, formerly of Digg and now of Google, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Wael Ghonim, Victoria Ransom of Wildfire (who sold her company to Google this summer for $350 million) and the founders of Flipboard.
Here’s five companies we’ve picked out from the 100 finalists, who we think are a bit on the wacky side.
Remember all those ambitious projections of what life would be like in the 21st century, where you’d be able to turn off your kitchen lights or boil your kettle from the other side of the world? SmartThings makes those ambitions a little more attainable – aiming to turn physical things like doors, lights, and TVs into much smarter devices you can control from a phone or online.
The most memorable thing from the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report (you know? The one where the psychic kids can predict crimes before they happen?) was the swanky futuristic setup where users could interact with fancy computers simply by hand gestures.
Fixational, an Irish startup, takes that a step further – by producing an iPhone app that can monitor its users face. That might sound creepy, but because Fixational is designed to interact with other apps, it means you can do things like squint at your phone to open a new tweet, or wink to take a photo, as in this example:
We’re not sure how best to describe this, so let’s just be honest: it’s an SMS-powered remote vibrator. Its makers say they’re trying to solve the problem of intimacy issues in long-term relationships – saying that’s one of the reasons why divorce rates are on the up.
Another Irish startup, Clevermiles says its dongle – which can be fitted to any car manufactured this century – has several purposes. The dongle transmits driving data back to a user – allowing them to analyse their behaviour for fuel efficiency.
Parents could also fit it to their kids’ cars for a bit of extra peace of mind when they’re learning how to drive for the first time. There’s a social aspect too – users can upload their data to the web and compare it against others to figure out who is the best driver in the world.
“Nowadays we’re all so busy that it’s hard to keep up with life, love and the girls.” Fair enough. Luluvise tries to integrate multiple methods of communication – making it possible to send simultaneous Facebook chats, BlackBerry messages and texts.
The idea is that sharing secure messages with a small private group of friends shouldn’t be quite so difficult – and tries to smooth the process by saving users the bother of having to send individual messages to individual users on individual platforms.
The Dublin Web Summit takes place at the RDS on October and 18.