| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed


The Inside Pitch at Switch: Tech Startups Go Deep

On some level, the first Switch Philadelphia conference last Wednesday was cursed. After booking the historic Levitt Auditorium at University of the Arts months ago, organizers learned that the Philadelphia Phillies would face the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the National League Division Series on the same night. This double-booked evening could have spelled disaster for those invested in Philadelphia's future.

Created by Technically Philly as a quarterly review of exciting tech entrepreneurship, Switch Philadelphia gave five of Philly's most dynamic startups seven minutes to pitch their idea to attending media, venture partners and peers. From a travel site for procrastinators to a more intuitive content management system, the advanced products developing right in their own backyard floored audience members and made them relatively oblivious to what was happening just a few miles down Broad Street. Roy Halladay went on to pitch the first no-hitter in postseason history since 1956. But for this room full of invested, organized and rabid Philadelphians, they wouldn't have missed these pitches for the world.

In case you missed the pitches at Switch, here comes the highlight reel.

PackLate.com: Travel sites from Orbit to Travelocity are all the same: the early bird gets the worm and the bird who sleeps in may not fly at all. But procrastinators rejoice because Conshohocken's PackLate.com has created the first travel site for the foot-dragging dawdler in us all. PackLate allows customers to play chicken with the marketplace, allowing rental prices to drop the longer you wait to book. Specializing in home rentals that are not the top priority for the average travel site, PackLate.com sets up a login wall to block search spiders like Google and Bing from finding many of these home rentals, allowing PackLate customers to control the bidding and putting pressure on renters to drop prices.

P'unk Ave: South Philadelphia web developers P'unk Ave debuted the latest version of their content management system Apostrophe. Built on the popular PHP Symfony framework, Apostrophe creates a more intuitive way to edit blogs and web pages, allowing drag-and-drop functionality and in-page text editing, all without ever digging into the source code or even leaving your site. The CMS lies right over your page so you can see how the edits will look without jumping between previews and data entry screens. Apostrophe creator Geoff DiMasi believes this is the next step in the way we bring information online and makes improvements over larger competitors like Wordpress.

"You can learn how to make content go live and you can learn how to publish content to the web and that is a pretty profound thing in any way you do it," says DiMasi. "But we have discussions that last for hours and days about how to make adding a page simpler, how to make moving around things easier so you are not asking how you do certain things."

Myna Music: Organizers were so taken with Myna's music management software that they allowed founder Dr. Greg Wilder to violate the only presentation parameter: no Power Point presentations. His software--a form of playlist generator that organizer Sean Blanda has called iTunes Genius on crack--works from a "seed" track and actively listens, picking out elements like tempo, tone and frequency to determine a mood instead of a keyword-based genre. As a consumer product, Myna would revolutionize sites like Pandora that are based on what other shoppers bought or what other listeners liked to create matches tailored to your track's specifications. But instead of thinking small, Myna has targeted commercial music studios. Often working from databases with between 50,000 and 100,000 pieces of music, Myna organizes music the way we perceive it, making it perfect for movie producers searching for a cut to capture the climax of their film.

"The consumer facing music industry is in a downward spiral while the commercial side is experiencing growth that is unprecedented, where shows like Gray's Anatomy are literally king-making bands," says Wilder. "For commercial music, there is no meta data that exists so all those companies have to create that for themselves. To do that over 24,000 tracks is horribly inaccurate and based on opinion and it's a huge pain in the ass. For Brittany Spears, for example, there is a huge amount of meta data but for indie rock bands, not so much."

Zecozi: When shopping online, many sources influence our purchase decisions. For the most part, we are not checking pictures of fashion models or seller feedback ratings, we are checking in with friends, talking to sales people and reading comment boards to see that we are getting a good deal. Instead of jumping between a brick-and-mortar store, a phone call with your mom and your friend's Facebook page, Zecozi.com has introduced shared shopping, a combination online boutique and chat board allowing you to discuss with friends, sellers and other shoppers as you browse. It's the ultimate personal shopper.

CommonSpace: Chronicled on Flying Kite a few weeks back, CommonSpace is the result of a partnership between sustainability and technology leaders William Penn Foundation, Sustainable Business Network and Azavea. Specializing in geospatial mapping innovation, Azavea created a comprehensive city map allowing urbanites to pinpoint a location and find out, based on how much time they have, how far they can get using a bike, a bus, a train or their own two feet. Once this "transitshed" is created, CommonSpace partners with events and attraction leaders like UWISHUNU and Philly Fun Guide, leading you to destinations, events and attractions within that area, creating a more connected and more sustainable community.

If you think you've got what it takes, Technically Philly is accepting submissions now for Switch 2. No official date has been set as of yet but organizers are hoping for late January or early February, steering clear of all important sporting events. Send all proposals here.

JOHN STEELE is the News Editor for Flying Kite and is a freelance writer, blogger and communication consultant in Philadelphia. Please send feedback here.


Greg Wilder talks about Myna Music

Steve Barsh of Packlate gives his presentation

Attendees take notes on their laptops

Geoff DiMasi, right, of  P'unk Ave makes his pitch

Josh Marcus of Azavea gives his presentation

All photographs by Jeff Fusco

Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts