Obama’s 50-State Ad Campaign, Animated Shopping Carts, Baby Pictures on Steroids, and More News from the Web Innovators Group

3/11/09Follow @wroush

Soon there will be no point in writing up stories about the Web Innovators Group meetings organized by Venrock’s David Beisel. Last night’s gathering in Cambridge was so crowded that it seemed everybody who could conceivably be interested in reading about the event was actually there.

But for the stragglers and those stuck at home with the flu, here’s a rundown of the companies featured at last night’s Web Inno, the 21st in the series. The first three presenters were the six-minute “main dishes,” and the others were one-sentence “side dish” presenters. Every company also had a table in the demo area (which Beisel had to move to a separate part of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, to make room for more chairs in the ballroom). Keep an eye on Xconomy for more coverage of these startups down the road.

Adroit Interactive, Boston—Judy Gern, Founder and CEO

Adroit offers a Web-based platform that allows advertisers and their agencies to customize Web advertisements so that “one ad becomes unlimited versions of itself,” in Gern’s words. The company’s interface allows advertisers to start with basic ad design templates, then provide multiple versions of its body copy or background graphics that will be served up to specific viewers according to whatever rules the advertiser specifies. For example, the Obama campaign used Adroit to create ads that were shown to Web surfers in all 50 states, with a different message and state graphic for each. The platform also allows advertisers to do painless “multivariate testing”—changing aspects of an ad such as its color, headline, or main graphic to see which combinations lead to the most click-throughs. (Adroit won the Web Innovators Group audience-favorite award in the text-message voting that followed the three main dish presentations.)

Bravo Cart, Vernon, CT—Jeffrey Cohen, Vice President of Sales

Bravo Cart is an e-commerce platform originally created by Connecticut-based Web design firm Imageworks LLC for clients such as UPS and Mohegan Sun; 18 months ago, the company rolled it out as a standalone product. Employing Adobe’s Flex and Flash multimedia formats, Bravo Cart makes the traditional e-retail shopping cart more interactive by allowing customers to drag-and-drop items from a catalogue page into their shopping cart. With an interface built around drop-down menus and information panels that slide out of sight when not in use, a Bravo Cart-powered store puts every available item on a single Web page, eliminating need to navigate between different product pages.

Lil’grams, Cambridge, MA—Gregarious Narain, Founder

Lil’grams, a photo-sharing site customized for the busy parents of young children, has been called “Twitter for Parents” and “Dogster for Babies.” It’s the first spinoff of Blue Whale Labs, a social networking applications consultancy based in Cambridge, New York, and San Francisco. The Lil’grams service, which is in private beta testing and is scheduled to go public in April, consists of desktop and Web-based tools designed to make it easier to put baby pictures online, categorize them according to child-development milestones, and share them with friends and family. There’s a drag-and-drop uploader tool; an online dashboard that lets parents label new photos as “Growth Grams,” “Word Grams,” “Food Grams,” “Media Grams,” and other types of bulletins; and a system that e-mails new photos to recipients who have opted in. The system can also grab photos from existing desktop or online photo-management systems such as Picasa, Flickr, or iPhoto. But is it just about babies? Founder Greg Narain says that since the system is built on top of a set of basic application programming interfaces that could work with any type of data, so “you can see this working in any number of verticals where sharing a memory is part of the process.”

Coachestown, Watertown, MA—Mitch Mencis

Free instant websites and text-messaging toolkits to help sports team coaches, scout troop leaders, and others organize group activities for kids.

JitterGram, Bedford, NH—Ric Pratte, Ed Mitchell, Matt Pierson

A platform that lets businesses send timely promotional text messages to customers’ cell phones.

JotNot, Cambridge, MA—Abe Gurjal, Alec Robinson, Nick Sillik

A service that converts photos of paper documents or whiteboards into Word documents or PDFs that can be more easily shared; pictures can be uploaded directly to the JotNot website or captured on camera phones via customized Android or iPhone applications.

mCaddie, Portland, ME—William Sulinski, James Daniels

Web and mobile software that helps golfers track their games, navigate courses, and compete and communicate with fellow golfers.

PickupZone, Boston—Hooman Hodjat, Bill Jacobson, Vasilios Roussos

Not what it sounds like. The company is creating a network of local retailers who serve as neighborhood delivery points for packages; residents or business users receive an email when a package is ready to be picked up.

Wiggio, Cambridge,MA—Dana Lampert, Rob Doyle, Derek Doyle

Online toolkits for group collaboration, including calendars, file sharing, conference calls, polls, and group messaging via e-mail, voice mail, or text messages. We profiled Wiggio last September.

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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