DEMO Continues as Fertile Ground to Find Promising Enterprise Startups

NEWS ANALYSIS: Digital markets, 3D printing and health care were among the technology sectors covered by some of the latest startup ventures that appeared at DEMO Enterprise.

What is on the horizon for enterprise software and services? The answer to that question can be found at events such as DEMO Enterprise, where wannabe enterprise software and services moguls get to pitch their barely hatched companies to an assembled audience of venture capitalists, investors and media.

That is a tough audience, but even venture capitalists need to gain some insight into what is the next big (enterprise) thing. While some of the companies pitching their wares will never get beyond the prototype idea level, the next Box or Aricent might just be on the stage.

I attended last week's Demo Enterprise in San Francisco. Here are some of the top trends I spotted along with a few comments on the winners.

First off, marketplaces are alive and well. While I tend to think of digital marketplaces as an idea that was hot around the time Craigslist was being introduced, there continues to be a new round of marketplaces getting started.

The rise of 3D printing provides the promise of reduced inventories and parts made on demand, but how to develop an intellectual protection and payment system to accompany the printers is an unfilled need. Authentise addresses those issues and is worth a look, particularly in the area of replacement parts for sophisticated devices.

In another example, marketers are told that digital video is the next hot market and publishers are promised contextual video can help the bottom line. But how to get the video you need and pay the creators for the video served. The answer is a video marketplace called the Vidible Management Platform. Marketplaces aren't passé; they are just becoming more focused.

The software and hardware connection is a healthy business. Health care is much in the news and digital health promises both cost savings and health benefits extended to groups where medical care is sparse. MDDTrack promises to track and alert physicians to medical device recalls before they end up in the patient, which is a good idea.

Eko Devices melds a digital stethoscope with a smartphone to bring heart monitoring to a digital level far more accurate than listening to heart thumps via an analog tube. Who says techies lack heart?

In the category of trying to fix the old stuff that still doesn't work right, there were a couple contenders. Clari uses phones and tablets to make CRM systems such as useful instead of a salesperson's favorite torture device. Apruve is an expense and approval app that makes sense to all parties involved in corporate purchasing.

Parklet is a modern version of the employee on-boarding system, employee directory and employee interaction platform that looks and works like something an employee may actually want to use.

Eko and Parklet both were awarded the Demo Gods moniker by the judges. Two other companies were also named. Thin Air is trying to marry cloud storage and security. Learnmetrics was a crowd favorite both because the founder was willing to sing on stage and because he is working on the very real problem of using digital technology to help teachers give the insight they need to help students on an individual basis. While most of the other products at Demo solve business needs, Learnmetrics is working on a far more important societal need.

The Demo Enterprise format does need some rework. There were too many speakers crammed in among the demo pitches. The concept is still there to provide a forum for up-and-coming companies. As I said, the one-day Demo Enterprise format provides a look at the horizon of the next evolution of enterprise software and systems, and that horizon includes digital marketplaces, the melding of the physical and digital worlds, and plenty of opportunity to fix the stuff that still doesn't work.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.