Last week was an important one for technology entrepreneurs in the United States.

Two of the most anticipated technology conferences - DEMOfall08 and TechCrunch50 - were held. They were highly anticipated not only because of the drama surrounding them but because they promised high-profile product launches.

Although I didn't attend either conference, I did follow them in real time and this past weekend I took the time to read reviews and watch video clips of the presenters.

Here's my take on both.


Most of the launches at TechCrunch50 were focused on the consumer internet.

In my opinion, this focus limited TechCrunch50 to a less diverse and less interesting portfolio of product launches. Quite a few products were unoriginal and some are competing in clearly oversaturated markets.

A few of the more curious examples:

  • Yammer - a Twitter clone for businesses (which was named the winner). 
  • Birdpost - a social network for bird lovers.
  • Closet Couture - a social network for fashionistas.

Whether or not you love or hate any of the startups at TechCrunch50, a lot of people felt let down (myself included).

Yet for all the disappointment, there was one company that did catch my attention - British startup Connective Logic.

The company's product, Blueprint, is a graphical editor for Microsoft Visual Studio that enables software developers to write applications that take advantage of multi-core processors (and multiple processors across a network).

Multi-core processors are used frequently today but many, if not most, applications don't take advantage of them.

Getting applications to take advantage of them often requires applications to modified significantly or rewritten entirely.

Connective Logic's Blueprint is designed to provide software developers a solution to what may be one of the greatest challenges they'll face over the next decade.

In my opinion, Connective Logic and other companies attacking this challenge are ones to watch.


Several hundred miles to the south, DEMO presenters took the stage in San Diego to launch their new products. While both TechCrunch50 and DEMO have a technology focus, DEMO is a little bit more diverse.

Like TechCrunch50, DEMOfall08 had its share of unimpressive consumer-oriented startups that I felt brought little innovation to the table.

Take Familybuilder, for instance. It offers genealogy-oriented applications through social networks like Facebook. But online genealogy is a saturated market and I don't see a compelling revenue model for Familybuilder given its distribution model.

Fortunately, DEMOfall08's diversity saved it as there were some interesting product launches. Three of the ones that piqued my interest the most:

  • Clintworld - a company whose primary product helps companies involved with mobile carriers "support, optimize and accelerate tariff related processes and requirements."
  • Plastic Logic - a pioneer in plastic electronics technology.
  • Microstaq - the developer of a silicon microvalve that the company claims can boost energy efficiency by an unprecedented amount in HVAC systems.

Note that two of these have nothing whatsoever to do with the consumer internet.

Final Thoughts

The fact that the less-diverse, consumer internet-heavy TechCrunch50 disappointed many and that DEMOfall08's saving grace was the presence of companies with interesting "hard" technology that was unrelated to the consumer internet (or the internet altogether) forced me to consider a few things.

It's quite clear that there's a lot more evolution in the consumer internet space than revolution. This makes sense. The Web 2.0 hype, for instance, which was clearly still alive and well at TechCrunch50, has been driven by trends related to content and leisure more than it has been by trends related to necessity.

And that's okay. 

While this doesn't mean that there aren't billion-dollar opportunities in the consumer internet space (there are plenty of them), there's only so far you can go with many of today's popular concepts.

While the consumer internet certainly hasn't seen the last of innovation, the space has clearly matured quite a bit and given that startups in the consumer internet space usually rely more on content and "critical mass" than they do on intellectual property, most of these startups are narrow moat companies - they have little defensibility and often find it difficult to develop practically meaningful differentiators.

Companies like Connective Logic, Plastic Logic and Microstaq, on the other hand, are at their core based on intellectual property that is, in the best of circumstances, highly-defensible and difficult for competitors to match quickly and with minimal expense.

Yet they're usually not as sexy as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

At the end of the day, perhaps the most valuable takeaway from TechCrunch50 and DEMOfall08 is that technology comes in many shapes and forms and there are different types of 'techies'. While you can compare apples to oranges (and argue over the absolute values of both), the exercise is fruitless (no pun intended).

Different groups within the world of technology are looking for different things and what's considered innovative differs between these groups.

Different stokes for different folks. And so on, and so on.

Now that the stages are empty, the lights turned off and the crowds gone, the real work for companies that presented at TechCrunch50 and DEMOfall08 begins...

Drama 2.0

Published 15 September, 2008 by Drama 2.0

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Comments (6)

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Stuart Smith

As the only UK representative, which surprised us, we'd like to thank you for the generous words. We were considered by many to be the oddball presentation at TC50 but quite a number of people actually got the proposition, including, of course, Jason & Michael who put on the show.

We are, as you put it, a 'hard' technology and have a huge investment of IP (40-50 man years) into Blueprint and its runtime which does make us defensible. We have been using the runtime primarily in the UK defence sector for a large number of years but Blueprint, which is graphical front-end to the runtime is entirely new.

Multi-core is probably the most disruptive change to software development since OO 20 years ago and sooner or later everyone will have to write code to fully exploit the multi-core hardware - it is a very difficult technical challenge without a platform like Blueprint.

We are actively seeking additional beta testers so come to our website and download and try the software.

One last thing, we get asked quite often 'what markets is Blueprint aimed at?' - the answer is quite simple really 'any market where you want your software to fully exploit multi-core hardware' which just about includes every developer out there. We currently have a C++ version and will very shortly have a .NET version with other language bindings to follow as the markets dictate.

As a result of TC50 we have 5 calls/meetings lined up with both US and UK investors, all in all, a good result for us.

almost 10 years ago


Adrian Tawse

May I take issue with the author. Blueprint is a solution to any problem, on any hardware - multi-core, single processor, homogeniously or inhomogeniously distributed, where the problem is to deal with more than a trivial level of concurrency or distribution. It is not limited to Visual C++, not limited to Windows or any other platform. The IDE just happens to run on Windows. Be this to harness the performance of multi-core, or for any other reason.

The much vaunted grid-computing implemented at CERN is conceptually a Blueprint circuit, and a trivial one to boot. It addresses a problem for which many others have partial solutions - and incomplete understanding of the problem. Blueprint is, so far as I know, the only complete solution.

almost 10 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Stuart: best of luck!

Adrian: the purpose of this post was not to provide an in-depth description of Connective Logic and its product. The Connective Logic website states that Blueprint "is a graphical editor for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (2008 coming soon)" that provides developers with "the tools you need to easily express and verify the concurrent behavior of your applications and a runtime that ensures the highest levels of performance and reliability across any number of cores... "

Based on this, my description of Blueprint ("The company's product, Blueprint, is a graphical editor for Microsoft Visual Studio that enables software developers to write applications that take advantage of multi-core processors (and multiple processors across a network)") is an accurate one.

In other words, there's nothing to "take issue with" unless you (for whatever reason) think that that a discussion of West Coast technology conferences should instead focus on a single company that presented at one.

almost 10 years ago


Adrian Tawse

My apologies.
It is just that in discussions with others I so often get the reply "oh yes that is the multi-core tool, no interest to us." or "sorry, that is Windows, we target Linux" or any other brush off that excuses the listener from turning on the brain. It is so easy to get a superficial impression, and to use that as an excuse.

The problem is that this is a truly revolutionary tool; it is a completely new way of looking at the problem. As such the biggest problem is getting people to think and understand, to look at their own problem in a new way, to take a sideways look.

If you can view your system as essentially containing three elements, of state, transforms performed on state, and events triggering those transforms, then you are half way there. But people who are more accustomed to thinking of systems in terms of lines of code will struggle.

almost 10 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Andrian: thanks. To be sure, Connective Logic is very interesting. It's admittedly not operating in a space that I am really involved with so I'm in no position to declare it "revolutionary" but in terms of the companies that presented at TechCrunch50, it certainly stood out as the one that is probably attacking the most painful problem and given that it has some real IP, it's miles ahead of most of the other presenting companies in my opinion.

almost 10 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Sorry, Adrian, not Andrian. Long day. :)

almost 10 years ago

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