I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first MinneDemo. When I heard we were attending I was thinking, “This will be great. I can write reviews of all these cool Minnesota made technology products”. Which is true, but what I was picturing was a very organized and structured technology expo with maybe some booths for the sponsors, a lot of suits and a generally quiet and reserved atmosphere. I could not have been more wrong.
As I was crossing the sky-way to Schulze Hall at the University of St. Thomas I knew I was not going to need to ask anyone where the event was. The buzz of people chatting and mingling and schmoozing echoed down the corridor and let my ears tell my feet where to go. As I walked down the expansive curving staircase to the main lobby and merged in to the bustling crowd I thought, “Of course, this makes perfect sense”.
MinneDemo is a local Tech Demo for real, working, Minnesota made technology products. The website describes it as “geek show and tell”. I would have to say that is pretty accurate. One of the presenters, Sigflup, analogized it as a LAN party: haphazard and spontaneous, “all of sudden you’re like, ‘crap, it’s a LAN party.””. The CATS crew got a good laugh out of that one.
Everywhere I looked I saw guys in hoodies and plaid shirts, backpacks and beanies, bright orange hair (with matching goatee) skating around the room shaking hands and exchanging cards. Having spent so much time working on social networking websites lately, I almost forgot that people do still get together and network face-to-face. Overall it was a casual yet sophisticated group of people representing all realms of technology and business.
After taking it all in for a few minutes my nose caught wind of the buffet table and I made a b-line. The medley of carefully curated appetizers had every one’s attention as conversations started to migrate around the two 8′ tables. I’m not sure if my favorite was the falafel balls, the spinach dip or the mini blueberry tarts they brought out later. Once you found one of the people handing out the blue tickets you could get yourself a soda, wine or beer from the bar to wash down all the delicious treats.
I decided to cruise into the presentation hall to complete my initial tour. Laptops, iPads and cellphones on tri-pods were all set up to document the presentations. For a moment it reminded me of a techie-geeky UN. Schulze hall has a beautiful, two level auditorium with enough seating that no one ended up sitting in the stairways (which apparently has been common at previous demos).
After an hour or so of chatting, snacking and making new connections it was time for us to head in and take our seats for the presentations.
First up was a website called Inveni, which means “to discover”. It is a social website where users can create “taste profiles” of their movie and television preferences. Users can import their settings and profile information from other sites like Netflix, Rotten Tomatoes and Facebook and then rate and share their favorite movies and TV shows with friends. What they have found lately is that the ability to recommend movies and shows to other users has been the most popular feature of their site. The system has instant search indexing and will also make recommendations to you based on your taste preferences.
Sigflup had a very interesting piece of hardware that I wish I understood a little better. Essentially it is a password keeper/generator that you can carry on your key-chain. It only has a few simple buttons that currently will store up to 14 passwords. The interesting thing is that it will generate new passwords for you without you ever having to touch your keyboard. In fact, you don’t even know what your password is! This certainly makes forgetting impossible but also takes away an element of control. Future releases are planned to have a card reader so you can take your passwords from computer to computer and edit them manually.
My personal favorite was from Zipnosis. We could open up a world of discussions and arguments around this site’s service. They have taken what sites like WebMD do to the next level. In their seven minute presentation we were able to create an account, describe our symptoms, get a diagnosis AND an actual prescription! They have it all set up for mobile notifications so you can have your prescription sent to the nearest pharmacy while you’re out and about. The CATS team had a lot to talk about on this one. $25 gets you a diagnosis from a real doctor at Park Nicollet, and a prescription sent where ever you need it within minutes! You don’t have to go sit in the doctors office for two hours to get the antibiotics you need. For simple ailments, this will not only save you time and money, but it allows the hospitals and clinics to focus on more serious and immediate medical problems. If your symptoms are very serious the system will stop you and tell you that you need to get in to see a doctor face-to-face.
During the intermission I heard rumors that our boss was there but all I could see was a blur of a man that resembled him. The real focus of this event isn’t as much about the demos as it is about the socializing and networking. The demos are kind of just a formality to make it official. Otherwise it was just a party, and a good one at that. I got to meet some interesting and talented professionals while enjoying some delicious hors d’oeuvres and the company of my coworkers.
These events, though not officially part of any larger organization, take place all over the country. Read up and find out how you can attend your local tech demo. It is a great place to make some new connections and have a good time.
Take a look at the other presenters on MinneDemo’s website. They are all looking for funding too so if there is one that catches your eye, drop them a line (or a dime)!