I love startups. But I’m cheap. So I was happy to buy the $30 Expo pass to last week’s Techweek Chicago, but no way was I shelling out for the $650 VIP pass.
Which meant I got to browse Startup City and meet the founders of 70 startups, but couldn’t crash the LAUNCH Final Five event. And you know what? I’m sure it was lovely, but apparently they chose the finalists based on nothing more than concept, business model, strength of team and presentation. Bor-ing.
I selected mine, on the other hand, based on pure awesomeness. Will they succeed? Will they find funding? Do they have sufficiently unique value propositions? Who cares?
All that matters is, one way or another, these five startups struck me as brilliant.
Best New Way for Shy People to Hook Up
Ever see an attractive stranger and wish you could connect without embarrassing yourself? Get yourself a deck of anonymous intro cards from Cheek’d. With messages like “I just put all my drinks on your tab” and “I’m totally cooler than your date,” the cards let the stranger connect to your profile without either of you seeing the other’s contact info. I love a tech startup that’s all about plain old, last-century cards, and the way you can make new connections without sharing everything with the whole world. It’s antisocial networking!
Best Completely Pointless Time Waster
Yes, there are a zillion sites where people do nothing but post, share and vote on witty little comments, but I’ve never seen one with as cool a design or as obnoxious a name as F.U. I’m Right. Plus, it made me LMAO. Sample question: “You catch your teenager with a dime bag. A— Smoke it. B—Dump it.” (“Smoke it” is winning, 56% to 44%.) This is the kind of startup that gives startups a reputation as overhyped hangouts for overeducated frat boys with nothing better to do. God Bless America.
Best Where-Was-This-When-I-Needed-It App
It’s Saturday night. My suburban wife and I head into the city to meet some friends at a bar near Belmont and Racine. It takes us 45 minutes to get there—and another 45 minutes to find a damn parking spot! Sure wish I’d known about Faspark. You type in your destination and it gives you a neighborhood route, color-coded from most to least likely blocks to find parking. I haven’t tested it yet, but if it works as advertised it’s a watershed moment in Western Civilization.
Best Slap-Your-Forehead Business Software
Remember back in the 90s when they said the Internet would create a paperless workplace? (Don’t say, No dude, I was still in grade school. Just don’t.) While we’re waiting for that miracle, PrintEco has developed an algorithmic plug-in that optimizes printed content so it fits on a smaller number of pages. And it’s free. You can keep all that software that saves money through streamlined processing or greater storage or maximized bandwidth or whatever. I’ll take the one that saves trees, too.
Best Idea Your Friends Will Hate You For
“Are you a blogger?” they asked me at the Snip.ps booth. “Wouldn’t you like to get paid for it?” Well, sure. How it works is, you convert any link with your Snip.ps account and post it wherever. Then, every time someone clicks on your link, they have to watch an ad for 10 seconds before they get connected—and you get paid. I might just join. Not that I think I’ll make much money. But it will force me to ask myself, “Is this Tweet worth making my friends sit through a ten-second Morgan Stanley commercial?
Don’t like my winners? Check out the other 65 startups and pick your own. It’s not as much fun as cruising Startup City, but you’re still $30 ahead of me.