Techcrunch Web 2.0 Party write-up

Last night, my friend Darren and I attended the TechCrunch Seattle Web 2.0 Party. The event was sponsored by local startups: Redfin, Farecast, and TripHub. It was the expected shmooze-fest of young, un-profitable new businesses, established big-guns chatting and hinting at their grand plans, and plenty of regular folk all wanting a piece of the pie. Here’s the summary of the few demos saw and various conversations we had…

Redfin

  • The entire event was very Redfin-centric. They were the biggest sponsor, their brand was most prominent, and they also launched a redesign of their site the same day, as well as expanding their service to the San Francisco area.
  • Redfin launched “Redfin Direct? in Jan/Feb for direct purchasing of houses online. They’ve gotten some attention for cutting into real-estate agents’ territory. They take a much smaller commission themselves and “refund? the standard commission back to the homebuyer.
  • Redfin seems far from profitable, but they actually have a developing business model, unlike some of the other startups represented.
  • “Redfin Direct” or house-buying online is clearly a disruptive technology that has the potential to do serious harm to the antiquated beast that has become of typical real estate.

Farecast

  • Their proprietary algorithm “predicts? when the best time to travel and buy airline tickets is, based on historical fare data.
  • The demo of their site was very pretty, with clear graphs displaying the high/low trends of ticket pricing. (drop me a line if you want one of my 25 invites to the private beta)
  • They have funding, but their business model seems rather weak. They don’t actually sell tickets through their service, they simply link off to individual airline sites, or to an Orbitz affiliate site. They’re also pursuing licensing of their algorithm to airlines or other sites.

TripHub

  • The least impressive of the bunch, although they found themselves some funding somewhere.
  • The idea is that they are a central place to plan group trips. Adding friends’ information, you can share invitations and plans with people for family reunions, group vacations, etc.
  • They do not sell hotel reservations, or airline tickets. They simply link to Hotels.com or other services for the actual purchase process.
  • Their service basically boils down to a glorified e-mail list.

Zillow

  • Zillow had a large attendance at the party, I’m sure partly due to their competitor Redfin sponsoring, as well as their hefty 100+ local staff (compared to Redfin’s lean ~25).
  • Zillow’s Maps: Chatted with one dev about their mapping. It looks very much like Google Maps, but is an entirely custom built interface, from a similar map provider as what Google uses.
  • Zillow vs. Redfin: Judging from this event, and Redfin’s brand new features, the winner seems to be Redfin. Zillow’s business model is ad-supported (definitely not a bad idea), but they merely offer a house value comparison/searching tool.

Microsoft

  • Lots of Microsoft attendance (of course, being in MS’s backyard and all). I didn’t talk to anyone directly, but as always they have plenty of things developing, and they’re keeping a close eye on the Web 2.0 space.

Others

  • Amazon Web Services is launching and will be heavily promoting their Web Services with IMDB. The developer we talked to was very excited at the buzz around IMDB applications.
  • The marketing manager for Rhapsody (Real Networks) was there handing out free trial cards. They are also releasing their web services in the next couple weeks. Unlike Amazon, he just wanted people to make “cool stuff? using Rhapsody Web Services. What aspirations!
  • Only saw a couple Googlers (Google Earth?)
  • Chris Pirillo is very small

So, Web 2.0? At this event: A lot of hype, a little bit of funding, and shaky business models. All-in-all it was a good time, and we had some good conversation, listened to marketing pitches, and laughed at the buzz and lingo. What a great place to play Buzzword Bingo.

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