Never Before-Seen Tech Companies Get Their Start at LAUNCH!

Three years ago, two tech media heavyweights, Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis started a conference called TechCrunh 50, a then annual startup conference. This year, they parted ways in case of two too many chefs in the kitchen, and as frienemies do – they each started their own version of that startup conference (and Arrington refused to allow his reporters to cover the event). Today we will focus only on Jason Calacanis and his new venture to showcase upcoming startups, LAUNCH!

Why? Because Calacanis was kind enough to invite and provide entrance tickets to our USC class to LAUNCH, and – better yet, in the competition are grad students from last year’s APOC program demoing their final project MingleBird. MingleBird is a geo-location iPhone app that makes event networking less awkward, and meeting people in person a fun game.

The stakes were high. Contestants would pitch for five minutes and then take questions and feedback from the judges. The judging and grand jury panel consisted of successful entrepreneurs who know a thing or two about startups, based on their own success in the field. There were two general competitions, a 1.0 competition between startups that had never received press and were completely unknown; and a 2.0 competition between startups that had previously launched but had made added new features or improvements. Outside was a demo pit of featured contestants and some companies that just wanted to get their feet wet in the space but didn’t make the final cut.

There were different rounds of judges and an audience loaded with tech press, angel investors, entrepreneurs, internet superstars, APOC students, and developers. To the contestants, which round of judges could really make or break their experience. Some of the judges could offer to fund them on the spot. And at times, they were so impressed they did.

Most of the time, however, they picked apart the technology, presentation and offered advice on improvement. Some of it relevant, and some of it, personal opinion – like, speak louder, stand up straighter, present better. Or your app that is meant for small to mid-size companies will not solve my 10mil+ traffic hits per day website testing issues. Judges were sometimes kind, and sometimes stern. Kevin Pollack was picked as the Paula of the panel and Dave McClure the Simon Cowell.

There were several standout winners that walked away with money in the bank like Room 77 and Stack Overflow. All in all, LAUNCH has been lauded as an overwhelming success by attendees and press alike, the best kind of revenge there is.

Here is the complete list of winners posted by TechCocktail.

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By Desdemona Bandini

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