DemoCamp 25 Toronto Roundup


DemoCamp is a concept that started 4 years ago in the Bubbleshare office boardroom. It is a forum for startups to share ideas, code and development tips at a “safe” venue within the community. Now at DemoCamp 25, audiences topped 450 people as they filled up an entire auditorium-style classroom at Ryerson University – pretty impressive. Check out the Flickr photos.

The theme of this DemoCamp was social gaming, with a few other social applications thrown into the mix. All the presentations were very interesting, but I have selected a few that stood out in my mind:

Gurbaksh Chahal (gWallet)

Gurbaksh gave an inspirational talk on entrepreneurship to the crowd, basing the majority on his life story and how he sold his first two companies for $40 million and then $300 million respectively. CEOs, take a look at his 9 entrepreneurship lessons. His new venture, gWallet, provides the next generation virtual currency platform for social media including social gaming, virtual worlds, mobile platforms, abandoned shopping carts and microtransaction environments. Essentially, it is another offer network that is looking to diversify itself from the realms of OfferPal and the like. It was great to see gWallet in action in one of the subsequent demos during the evening.

Albert Lai (Kontagent)

It’s always good to see Albert. I’ve had a beat on Kontagent for a while now, and I still love what they are doing. If you’re developing a social Facebook app, there is no excuse for not using Kontagent, unless of course you have no desire to really know what your users are doing and how best to improve the growth and distribution of your application across the social network. Kontagent really drives down to better understanding the Life-Time Value (“LTV”) of a user based on your Average Revenue Per User (“ARPU”) less the cost of acquiring an individual user – and Kontagent gets very granular so that you, the developer, can determine which sources of traffic tend to monetize well across your social application. If you haven’t heard of Kontagent, check it out.

Greg Thomson (Tall Tree Games)

Greg seemed to be in fine form last night. He demoed their latest game called FishWorld, which was a stellar rip of Zynga’s (and other) aquarium-based games. It was stellar not because Zynga does it to everyone else, but because it went above and beyond other aquarium-style games. Greg and the company really thought through the game mechanics and the game player’s psychology to maximize revenue-making opportunities. One of the best quotes that he said during his presentation was to “Create a problem for your users and sell them back a solution.” For example, in FishWorld the tanks constantly get dirty, but the game offers a suckerfish for $2 that will keep your tank clean and will prevent you from having to do maintenance on the fish tank to keep it clean. Another very smart move was to sell a shark, a premium and monetizable fish that people think are “cool” to have in their tank, but the shark eats other fish that users will then have to replace through coins or credits. In short, great game mechanics. Check it out! You will learn a lot by studying this game.

Greg Balajewicz (Realm of Empires)

Realm of Empires looks like a pretty engaging game where users can build relationships with each other, strategize, and plan their schemes of “virtual world domination”. They have build the company without many game mechanics for increasing monetization, as that did not seem to be their motivating force; these nice guys actually created a “fair” game where users can genuinely compete on skill and strategy – you are not able to buy your way to the top. While very refreshing from a user game-play point of view, it will be interesting to see how this pans out from a business operations standpoint. I think there is lots of potential for growing revenues in this company and that a great business mind could join this team and together they can really cash-in.

There were a few other demos by Oz Solomon (Social Gaming Studios), Joel Auge (HitGrab), Mark Zohar (Scenecaster) and Roy Pereira (ShinyAds.com), and while interesting, they weren’t inherently social games, which I set out to cover in this post. Feel free to check out my reviews from DemoCamp 21 (July 2009).

If you’d like a more in-depth review of your game or game mechanics, flip me a note and I’d be glad to take the time chat, understand your game / mechanics and review it in a subsequent post.

Review: DemoCamp Toronto #21


Tonight I attended DemoCamp Toronto #21. It was my personal second time out at DemoCamp and I was loving the vibe in the room of the sold-out venue (approx. 250 people). Before I get to the meat of the post, I must throw out a big thank you to Leila Boujnane, who was awesome and gave me her seat at the packed event.

Below, I have done my best to provide some information on some of the demos from tonight’s event:

Zoocasa is an ad-supported, vertical search engine for real estate listings that allows visitors to search by neighborhoods and school district among other things. I’m not a huge fan of the ad-supported model as a sole business model and I believe that the business should quickly look for some innovative business models that they can layer onto their service offering to increase the monetization potential of their website.

ArtAnywhere was presented by an enthusiastic Christine Renaud. Her business is centered around a website that helps artists (painters, contemporary artists) meet and transact for their artwork with those looking to buy (or in this case — RENT). ArtAnywhere has a very interesting business model that charges people or corporate entities $XX/mo/piece of art (artist chooses the price) and the site takes a 15-20% tranaction fee. The company is launching in Montreal, Toronto and New York in September 2009. I am very curious to see if people will buy into her business model and find security in mitigating the risk of purchasing art by renting it on a monthly recurring model.

HomeStars is a website that allows home contractors to have a social media page with ratings and reviews. It doesn’t seem to be anything revolutionary, and certainly not a business that will scale to deliver venture-like returns, but it can certainly drive value to all of its users and potentially make a nice return for a business owner. Brian, who gave the demo, seemed like a nice guy and I wish him well in his venture.

Cascada Mobile is an interesting company that solves the problems of some mobile application developers who are looking to write-once and deploy an application across multiple devices. Their primary product is called “Breeze.” Using this product, a user can write code in HTML/ JavaScript/CSS and have it ported to a large number of devices (including the iPhone as of this week, albeit with limited functionality). They also host and manage distribution. Currently they have a free ad-supported version as well as licensing fees and revenue share deals for users who don’t want ads embedded within their applications. Very cool. I’d love to try out the full version and try to create my own mobile app!

MashupArts is a site looking to capitalize on social networks, collaboration, events and virtual goods. The company lets you customize one of a series of templates and integrate a number of mediums (pictures, slideshows, video, audio, text), and a commenting layer on top of this. The example given is a group-based collaborative birthday card to a friend or family member where all of the members of the network can contribute to card mashup. The website is currently in a beta, but if you really like the sound of this, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to get you a passcode into the realm of the private beta.

Guestlist is a sexy new event site by Ben Vinegar. Very slick and great use of AJAX elements here. It’s so good that DemoCamp mentioned that they are going to switch from EventBrite to Guestlist; so there, now you go try it! It’s in beta and just launched last week.

Guigoog is supposed to be an alternative to using Google’s “hard-to-navigate” boolean, advanced search. So for all the non-computer junkies, I guess there’s a market for this?! You tell me. In any case, Jason Roks got stuck demoing on a computer with IE6.0, and needless to say, it could not handle the advanced scripting necessary to pull of some of the snazzy UI elements he incorporated. Don’t worry Jason, I tried it on Google Chrome and it looks great. He describes the technology as: “If you’re looking for 2 things in a pile in front of you, you can filter out everything you don’t want, and you will be left with things that resemble what you are looking for.” Therefore, you can find things that you don’t necessary know exist, but think may exist given a number of parameters — great for searches where you know general characteristics but no specific names — I can think of many scenarios where this could be handy! Can you?

Great job everyone. It was a blast as always (i.e. last time). Looking forward to the next event.