AMAZING. Shaker, the Facebook application that turns the social network Facebook into the second coming of Second Life, won TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 Startup Battlefield. The more detailed blog post was put off because it was time to party. And for good reason. It’s not often in life that a friend of yours is involved in a new startup company that draws thousands of users, wins a “venture capital competition” which is what the Startup Battlefield is, and asks you to be a part of the initial presentation.
But that’s what happened to this blogger at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011.
But, before we look more at Shaker, a shout out to those firm that not only didn’t win, like CakeHealth and Prism Skylabs, but to those startups who at least made a “go” of getting to TechCrunch Disrupt 2011, and make waves and contacts in the process. Companies like TripTrotting (a cross between Eharmony and couch-surfing) and Tap Tank (which allows you to find activity matches among your social media friends), featured in the video below:
And there was Trippy.com, which allows you to connect with your social media friends to plan a trip. Trippy has Randi Zuckerberg as one of its backers, and she even made the trip to TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about the startup during its presentation:
As I explained to Ms. Zuckerberg on Twitter, I didn’t find Trippy.com initially compelling because there are so many startups in what’s best called ‘the trip space,’ I just zoned out from a deeper focus on it.
But after talking with Randi about it, I promised to give Trippy a go. Armed with a beta access code, I started clicking around to plan my trip (I’m way not done). I have to admit, it’s an addictive application because of its web design and structure. It attractively displays the city and your options for hotels, eateries, and in the example provided, whatever trouble Robert Scoble plans to cause in New York City (Sorry Robert, but your feed popped-up in the Google search, and I couldn’t resist).
Another compelling firm was started by someone, Rebecca Woodcock, who I met at a ValleyWag Happy Hour at the former Moose’s Restaurant in 2007: CakeHealth. CakeHealth allows you to organize and manage your healthcare expenses online and via an available mobile app. It’s an off-shoot of a number of web applications that help you manage your finances online.
The idea for CakeHealth came because Rebecca was caught managing the life of a person significant to her, and had, as she said later, “to make decisions on his behalf.” Since Rebecca was a corporate strategist, the idea of starting a firm herself was, well, a piece of cake as she has been surrounded by people who have started companies in the Bay Area. Rebecca found a co-founder in programmer Andy Brett, and created what some have said is a truly “disruptive” startup. I agree.
Now, about Shaker.
The idea for Shaker is simple: design an animated virtual set of online rooms where you can interact with people you’re connect with on Facebook. Facebook meets Second Life. That’s it. The unfortunate idea is that Shaker is a dating site; I didn’t “see” that when I used it, but one of the makers of it, Yonatan Maor, said it could be used that way. Thus, the flood of tweets describing Shaker in unkind terms. All this blogger can say is give it a try for yourself. The environment is largely what you make of it – like the real world itself.
The untold story of Shaker is how a couple, my friend Sarah Autin and her boyfriend couch surfed in Tel Aviv, met Yonatan Maor, saw the Shaker app, realized its potential, and put their life on hold. If that sounds like the start of what could be a movie, well…
And that’s the point. The untold story, one you don’t read in many of the articles and blogs, even at TechCrunch, is the very human story of how people connect to start an app that becomes Facebook or, in this case, Shaker. It’s also a story that, for a time, roped in this blogger, because Sarah wanted to have a group that was diverse, had no problem asking for my help, and I had no problem giving it.
It also reveals the fact that there are companies in all of us, regardless of success or failure. For me, it’s still Sports Business Simulations. For Rebecca Woodcock, it’s CakeHeath. And for Michael Arrington, it’s the TechCrunch empire. And so on.
(Like a dinner I attended at Bin 38, I’ll talk about later).
As I’ve blogged before, all of these stories have the San Francisco Bay Area as their backdrop in some way. There’s the platform for your movie.