Competition is fierce in the tech startup space yet few venues showcase new talent quite like Plug and Play’s quarterly EXPO. Last Thursday, over 500 attendees poured into Plug and Play Tech Center’s Sunnyvale headquarters to watch new tech startups compete. The event also featured a VC Panel with Ajay Agarwal, Jim Barnett, Kamran Elahian and Sumeet Jain. Robert Goldberg of Zynga gave the keynote and VIP judges hailed from companies like Adobe, Cisco, GoDaddy.com, Honda, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Warner Brothers and Yahoo!.
“Imagine what American Idol would look like if it were looking for the best tech startups instead of pop singers; that’s pretty much what Plug and Play’s EXPO is,” said Saeed Amidi, CEO and Co-Founder of the startup accelerator Plug and Play Tech Center. “We look for entrepreneurs from all over the world, they submit their companies, we choose thirty of the best, they audition before our audience, and our judges vote to decide who wins.”
This year’s Summer EXPO winners are the mobile music learning platform Music Prodigy – whose founder, Hreold Lee, wowed the audience with his electric guitar playing – Seattle based mobile sales platform OfferUp and the big data analytics company Skytree.
Sherman Oaks based Music Prodigy is a self-proclaimed “Gamified Rosetta Stone for Music.” As it says Music Prodigy’s site, “Our mission is to create more music, by creating more musicians… by making learning music easier, faster and more fun. - We are a young company. It had to be that way. The technology, processing power, algorithms… they didn’t exist before. And now that they do, we are not stopping with just guitar.”
OfferUp’s creators sought to make the process of buying and selling goods frictionless, fast and mobile. By offering a simple selling solution, they’re helping people answer the question, “what do I do with all of the stuff I’m not using?” While presenting onstage at Summer EXPO, company President and CEO, Nick Huzar used the last thirty seconds at the end of his presentation to showcase OfferUp by taking a picture of Plug and Play’s EXPO podium and offering it for sale on his platform.
San Jose based Skytree is in the business of machine learning – the science of discovering patterns and making predictions from complex data. Skytree’s servers are designed to help companies make sense of everything from retail and marketing to pharmaceuticals and astronomy. When asked about his experience with EXPO, Skytree CEO and Co-Founder Martin Hack said, “Plug and Play EXPO is fantastic, not only for the Silicon Valley but for the entire startup community.”
The Competition at EXPO
This year’s competition included 27 other new startups like the social gifting company BeeBox, viral marketing platform Brandvocat and Gen4Web an upcoming social mobile game developer founded by fifteen-year-old Stanford hopeful Eric Manalac.
“There are two reasons why EXPO is great,” says Alireza Masour, Plug and Play’s Vice President of Technology Investments, “one is that it gives entrepreneurs with new ideas a chance to showcase their startups, and two – you never know what you’re going to find. You may find the next Mark Zuckerberg. You may help launch a new technology that will change people’s lives. The possibilities are endless.”