The chatter on CNBC the other day seemed preoccupied with all that is wrong in the tech world. There was Craig Barrett, the former chairman of Intel, complaining yet again about the state of public education. Someone else questioned whether Apple had lost its way because it released an iPhone with a misguided maps app. Others went on about the precipitous drop in Facebook stock. Tesla, the electric car company, reported it was having production problems.
The talk was enough to make me doubt our ability to innovate. But the mood soon passed. All it took was a lunchtime visit to the D.C. offices of the law firm Cooley, where investors, bankers, accountants and others gathered to hear pitches from a crop of eager start-ups.
“Capital Call” is a biannual affair, part of Cooley’s efforts to nurture a start-up ecosystem and generate a little good will that might bring work to the firm in the future. Entrepreneurs get three minutes in front of the crowd to stir up interest and ask for money.
The 13 that presented at last week offered a window into where business is headed. There were cloud-based businesses to manage health data and create virtual recording studios. An Arlington firm called Distil offered a product to prevent software bots from “scraping” Web sites to steal content. Barrel of Jobs said it had a patent-pending way to pay people for job referrals. Brain Sentry is marketing a helmet sensor capable of detecting concussion-inducing impacts; Shockatoo makes a kind of animated tatoo to bring self expression into the digital age.
Still others would allow us to be more social. CrimePush’s app lets people report crimes with their smartphones. PersonSpot helps users create their own “social” magazines. TouchdownSpace is building a service to help road warriors find an open office.
I have no idea how successful these companies will be, but contrary to what you may hear sometimes, we seem in no danger of running out of fresh ideas.