The download: A guide to food trucks, and other tech ideas

By Steven Overly
Monday, February 7, 2011

Lunchtime strikes. Stomachs gurgle. The food trucks beckon.

That's a regular routine for the many Washingtonians who turn to the city's fleet of food trucks for burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches or lobster rolls to sate midday hunger. Two George Washington University students plan to turn it into a business.

The Web site for The strEATS was on display Wednesday at Tech Cocktail, a mixer organized by former AOLer Frank Gruber where start-ups present their fledgling ventures. The ideas featured last week ranged from a family travel Web site to a network for motorists to warn others of speed traps.

The strEATS co-founders Randy Shore and Daniel Preiss showed off a map with markers for each truck and descriptions of what they serve. To differentiate from competitors, the duo is also working with the vendors to set up a system for online orders.

Across the room was Web and app developer Mashed Pixel, which showed off a product demo of "Surc." It's an iPhone case and app that acts as a universal remote for devices with infrared detectors.

It's the brainchild of Daphna Kalman, a graphic designer in the District, who along with three others has been developing the patent-pending device since early last year. "We live in a hyper-connected and interactive world and believe your control over that world should be mobile as well, whether it be at home, at work or at your local bar," she said.

For the college-bound set, a pair of budding entrepreneurs from GWU is set to launch AdmissionSplash on Tuesday. The Facebook application will project a high school senior's chances of admission to 1,500 colleges based on grades, test scores, work experience and other criteria.

Co-founders Allen Gannett and Anton Zolotov said similar applications for business and law schools could also be unfurled, expanding their Splash Networks products into other markets.

One of the event's mobile marketing plays was Venga, a smartphone app and Web site that combines the popular trends of geo-location, social buying and mobile to help Washingtonians belly up to the bar.

Co-founder Winston Bao Lord was on hand Wednesday to explain the product, which provides a real-time list of drink specials and happy hour deals from local bars and restaurants. Clientele can signal to bars from their phones whether the discounts resonate.

It's set to launch early this year in the D.C. market, and Lord said the aim is to "own our piece of the chess board" before expanding into other towns. "

Also on hand:

Elizabeth Thorp, a travel writer and mother of three, who created family travel Web site Poshbrood to provide mom-written reviews of travel destinations, hotels and restaurants to assess their kiddie accommodations.

Joseph Scott Seyoum, the chief executive of two-year-old start-up PhantomALERT, who was handing out memberships to the service. It lets motorists report speed traps, intoxicated driving checkpoints and other tickets-in-waiting. The alerts are delivered directly to mobile phones and GPS devices. His business pitch: If you avoid one traffic ticket, membership pays for itself.

Podcast Recycler, which helps businesses and brands build a bigger following by aggregating free online music and other content into podcasts for customers to download. The idea is to keep customers engaged and promote the brands across mobile devices and social networks.

And for all those entrepreneurs with merely an idea, Sandip Agrawal has a start-up to help you shape it. Shapea offers entrepreneurs a platform to register users to test new products or offer feedback on whether an idea has business potential. Based on the event's turnout, entrepreneurs are certainly a humming market.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company