This week, hundreds of Chicago’s top entrepreneurs gathered again for Technori Pitch, a monthly showcase where new businesses pitch their million (or maybe billion) dollar idea and business model to investors and startup junkies eager to grow the Midwest’s tech community into a global powerhouse.
Harry Gottlieb, founder of Jellyvision, got things started with this month’s keynote address. Most well known for their snarky party game “You Don’t Know Jack,” Jellyvision has been on what Gottlieb called the “bleeding edge” of interactive, broadband-dependent games since the decline of the CD-ROM gaming market at the end of the 90s. Some highlights from his remarkably frank and personal talk:
- A Facebook version of “You Don’t Know Jack” will be released soon! You won’t even have to be physically near your friends to intellectually body slam them!
- The “freemium” model of monetizing a product is terrifying. But it works.
- Working with Regis Philbin on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire video game was nothing short of a blast.
- Why aren’t more games rooted in comedy? Every other type of entertainment has a massive and successful comedy sector.
- It’s better to not hire anyone than to hire the wrong person, because an employee who’s a bad fit actually adds work for the rest of the team.
But if I had to pick just one, my favorite moment had to be when Gottlieb played a quick video of an interactive Jellyvision corporate training program that maintained all the wit and general playfulness of “You Don’t Know Jack,” complete with PG-13 sex jokes.
The following speakers introduced their just-launched companies with the combination of professionalism and candor that’s common in the Chicago startup scene.
Jaime Brugueras, founder of Mineful, explained how his software can improve customer retention, which saves companies a bundle considering it’s 7x more expensive to acquire a customer than it is to retain one.
Peter Brown introduced Recspon, which matches rec league members registered with organizations like Chicago Sport & Social with the best bar sponsors.
English teacher Jeff Scheur described NoRedInk, which gives students an interactive, online way to improve their grammar skills.
Daniel Salcedo went over Mobcart, and described how customers could get the wholesale prices they’re used to getting on cheap bulk items on expensive products like SLR cameras.
And finally, Catapult Chicago’s own former rocket scientist Tyler Spalding unveiled Styleseek, which decodes men’s personal style preferences and then makes intelligent clothing suggestions.
With such an impressive lineup, I’m already looking forward to next month’s Technori Pitch!