Tech Ed: Start-up shootout

Five start-ups aim for success

A special event at this year's Tech Ed was an ICT innovators' shootout, with five start-ups shooting for press attention in a pitch contest.

Up first was Ag-Hub, developed by Manawatu-based company Farmworks. Ag-Hub is an internet farming application, which “brings the pieces together on the paddock” to help farmers analyse pastoral information.

Ag-Hub general manager Clive Nothling says farm consolidation is leading to equity farmers, driving a need for more online information. Increasing competitiveness is also requiring increased efficiency and productivity.

Ag-Hub pushes information online to support management decisionmaking across a wide range of pastoral farming management issues including tracking, sustainability, effluent and water management, pasture cover and field moisture.

Data is captured from a range of farm devices, including an on-farm wireless network, GPS devices and sensors to a PC and from there to Ag-Hub. there it is stored and accessible along with information from third-party sources.

Nothling says there are a lot of silos in the agricultural sector, but these have not been brought together. Ag-Hub aims to do this and deliver pro-active management through alerts.

Next was Blade, which started as a high-end consulting company in 2003 and now delivers data delivery software. Inability to deliver large amounts of data offshore was the problem Blade decided to address, while tackling security and reliability requirements.

The solution is Blade File Transfer System, which allows the transfer of any amount of data over any network reliably. Customers have worked out new ways of using the solution since its launch, including off-site backup, moving large research files around on US campuses and a cloud file system — a user-friendly way of sharing files over the internet.

Blade co-founder and head of technology Valentine Boiarkine says a lot of data is written to media. Blade is a more streamlined and controlled means of transfer without using physical media, she says.

If a network goes down, the transfer pauses exactly where it left off and when the network resumes so does the transfer. Security was also addressed using existing standards for encryption and security on a Microsoft platform, including Windows Communication Foundation and IIS.

Blade for Offsite Backup is a new product aimed at PC users seeking to upload their data to a managed service for backup.

The third pitch was from Centeros CEO James Crossley. Centeros makes software to manage datacentres.

The software manages the physical aspects of the datacentre and delivers a centralised place to access data and make decisions quickly.

The Centeros software manages and allows visualisation of power requirements, capacity planning and more to avoid outages and breaches of service level agreements, Crossley says.

It provides reporting, monitoring and workflow for the datacentre environmnent.

The software also helps centralise information to avoid issues of multiple files and version control in applications such as Excel and Visio and deliver a “single source of the truth”.

The interface is browser-based, platform independent and accessible over the internet, Crossley says. Customers include IAG, Healthalliance, Datacom and the University of Auckland. The next stage is to sell the software globally through resellers.

Crossley says Centeros can be run inhouse or as software as a service.

Fourth up was KernMobile director Kerry Connors, from Palmerston North, with a vision of capturing works information targeting councils, utilities and contractors. The problem it addresses is “rigid mobility”, reducing the visibility of current works under way with each being recorded in separate systems and recorded multiple times. Many organisations have five or more staff simply entering data from paper forms with no business rules attached.

The product has the ability to work in online and offline modes. It also comes with a flexible business rules framework.

KernMobile is delivered in two parts: a mobile solution or device and an internet management console controlling information flows out into the field and back into in-house databases.

While the software cuts duplicated data entry and boosts efficiency, the main benefit is vastly improved visibility of what is going on in the field, Connors says.

KernMobile is built on Microsoft .Net and, like Centeros, is also available as SaaS or as a client server application. KernMobile is on track to becoming a $2 million company by 2011, connors says.

Last was Alexey Kojevnikov, from Marketprice.co.nz. Marketprice is trying to make selling online easier, “at least for event tickets”, Kojevnikov says. The site is currently in public beta. In the US, Stubhub sold over US$700 million in tickets, he says.

Listing such items on an online auction requires considerable work, categorising, describing and so forth. Marketprice eases that because tickets are an homogenous good, he says. All listing appear on the same page in the same format allowing users to understand the state of the market and make informed decisions. The lowest price appears on top of the list.

Marketprice is a unified market, a bit like a stock exchange with current prices for tickets on sale. Selling requires two clicks.

The site was developed under Microsoft's BizSpark programme which allowed acces to development tools for three years for free.

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Tags centerosmarketpriceict innovators' shootoutTECH EDMicrosoftag-habkernmobileblade

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