Like movie executives, hopeful entrepreneurs tend to describe their new companies in terms of successful ones that came before them. It’s not clear whether they do this because they’re hoping some of the magic pixie dust that turned a previous idea into gold will trickle down to them, or because they think an analogy is the best way to get the world’s attention, or because they didn’t have a original idea and are simply evolving an old one. But it’s so common it inspires parody, like youtube videos that pitch Pandora for cats, among other imagined technologies.
At this year’s DemoFall conference held earlier this month in Santa Clara, Calif., these mini-homages to successful startups were everywhere. There was OnCam, “the twitter of video chat;” Itography, “geocaching for shoes;” Flinja, the “Airbnb for college service providers” (college students who do freelance jobs); Omnicloud, “the Dropbox for apps;” Givit, one of several “Instagram for videos;” and Wiresurfer, the “Kayak for business telecom services.”
And then there was OrbitFront, a reviews site with a 14-year-old founder who decided one analogy was not enough and touted his startup as having “the community of Twitter, the expression of Youtube, and the profitability of Amazon.”
Will any of these nascent companies turn into successful enterprises? It’s little early to tell, but the venture capitalists, analysts, and already-successful entrepreneurs critiquing the demos, while not so enthusiastic about geocaching for shoes, did seem to agree that the world is actually waiting for “Instagram for Video.” Today, while it’s easy enough to take videos with a mobile device, editing and sharing them isn't, and a company that takes away the pain and becomes a standard for video sharing could succeed. And while it’s not clear that any of the mobile video editing companies who presented their wares at DemoFall are going to replicate the sold-to-Facebook-for-$1-billion success of Instagram, that possibility is what keeps the startup energy flowing.
Follow me on Twitter @TeklaPerry.
Image: Author's mashup representing a geocaching Instagram for shoes.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.