Friday, July 13, 2007


So far in 2007 we've seen some exceptional web app launches. From video to micro-blogging, new startups have transformed the web landscape. So what defines a 'hot launch'? Obviously, a great product is essential, but also the ability to generate buzz.

So let's take a look at the startup launches that have packed the most powerful punch in '07. The selections below are in order of impact (number 1 having had the biggest). Our criteria? Mostly, huge user growth in a short period of time. But another important factor is getting maximum press and blogosphere exposure - i.e. there is a lot of buzz about these startups prior to launch, or shortly after. Note that these are 2007 launches - e.g. Twitter, an obvious candidate otherwise, launched late 2006. We also haven't counted big company product launches, such as the iPhone. Here then is our top 5:

5. Babelgum

Babelgum logoBabelgum is a free, on-demand Internet TV experience. Set-up of the downloadable app is extremely easy and video content begins to stream immediately once logged in. A slick interface and TV-like feel further enhance the experience. Where Babelgum lacks is in the content column. The company plans to initiate a 50/50 revenue-sharing program with publishers with a guaranteed minimum CPM of $5.00, which is very reasonable.

Since launching just over a month ago, Babelgum has piggy-backed off the success of Joost. Internet TV seems to be an optimal choice for many traditional TV viewers, as it provides the high-quality programming of TV with the benefits of the Internet (i.e. free, on-demand).

4. Tumblr

Tumblr logoTumblr is a new way to share photos, quotes, text, links, chat, or videos. The interface of this micro-blogging platform is very slick and well-designed. The clean look is extremely similar to that of the Wordpress back-end, down to the use of the word “Dashboard”. So far, the simple concept and refreshing design have paid off for the company.

Like Babelgum, Tumblr can attribute a large part of its fame to the success of a competitor - Twitter in this case. The recent growth of the micro-blogging space has been phenomenal. Other notables in the space include Jaiku, Pownce, Moodmill, and Hictu.

3. Mahalo

Mahalo logoMahalo is a human-powered search engine. The editorial team comprises in-house guides, as well as outsourced editors under the Mahalo Greenhouse program. These editors are paid $10-15 to create search engine results pages (SERPs) for the web’s most searched terms. In essence, Mahalo is creating SEO-tailored informational pages, somewhat akin to what Wikipedia has done.

Mahalo is headed by Silicon Valley veteran Jason Calacanis, formerly of Weblogs, Inc. and Netscape. Calacanis is hoping this new engine will outperform traditional algorithm-based search engines, such as Google and Yahoo. Thus far, the popularity and exposure of the endeavor have to be attributed to the celebrity status that Calacanis brings to the table.

2. Pownce

Pownce logoPownce is a new way of sharing things. Messages, links, files, and events can quickly and easily be sent to friends, family, and colleagues with very little hassle. You have the flexibility of being able to share with one person, a group of people, or your whole list. This web-based service is also available as a downloadable app, powered by Adobe’s new AIR platform.

Many are comparing Pownce to Twitter, although I’m not convinced this is a good comparison. In any case, due to the generic nature of the offering, competitors include the likes of e-mail, IMs, as well as file-sharing programs among others.

The small team of four is led by Kevin Rose of Digg fame. Much of the hype and buzz surrounding the launch of Pownce has to be credited to the fame of Rose. If Pownce does prove to be a success, it would be Rose'’s third hit in a row (Revision3 being the other).

1. Joost

Joost logoSimilar to Babelgum, Joost is an on-demand Internet TV service - and it ranks as our hottest product launch of 2007. The downloadable app allows viewers the ability to stream high quality programming anytime, anywhere. Joost has signed numerous content distribution deals and pulled in many top-tier advertisers.

Joost is led by the powerhouse duo of Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (of KaZaA and Skype fame). When the two announced they were working on a new Internet TV start-up late last year, the world stopped to listen. Known as the Venice Project while in stealth-mode, Joost launched early this year to much fanfare. VCs lined up to finance the new venture, as the probability of success seemed certain under the current management team. With all due respect, Zennström and Friis could have launched a social network for European table-cloth enthusiasts and it probably would have still garnered the same amount of publicity and acclaim.

BONUS: Truemors

Truemors logoAll jokes aside, this low-budget Guy Kawasaki side project did cause quite a stir when it launched in mid-May. The premise: users report rumors via e-mail, text, or phone. Popular rumors make it to the front page in a Digg-like fashion. In other words, Truemors is “Digg for rumors”.

Most attribute the success of the launch not to the service itself, but to the star power of Guy Kawasaki. The idea is novel, but this leads many to believe that the sustainability and long-term prospects of the company are questionable at best.


What do you think of our selections? Have there been any other hot startups that have launched in 2007, that perhaps should've made the list?

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