Southern California's top startups showed up in force Friday at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, for the Technology Council of Southern California's annual VentureNet conference. (socalTECH was a media sponsor of the conference). The conference, held at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, featured pitches by eight different companies vying for the attention--and pocketbooks--of venture capitalists. The day started with a keynote by John Suh of Legalzoom.com, and topped off with a pitch from David Sacks -- CEO of Geni.com, and also CEO of Geni spinoff Yammer.com, which recently won the top prize at the TechCrunch50-- plus a question and answer session which had Matt Coffin, founder of LowerMyBills, grilling Internet technology celebrity Jason Calacanis.
The conference, which does not unveil the names of the companies pitching until the day of the event, rolled out a lineup of Southern California companies ranging from email and instant messaging aggregator Orgoo, to virtual avatar firm mEgo.com. Other companies included Capzules (photo and memory sharing web site); MeetingSense (meeting management); CampusExplorer.com (college information); RingRevenue (affiliate call tracking); IS Accountable (virtual server chargeback); Mefeedia (video sharing and aggregation); Lingospot (term hilighting for publishers); Digital Performance (performance auto parts database); and DialPlus (mobile information service). David Sacks, one of the co-founders of PayPal, pitched Geni.com, an online site focused on both family trees and social networking. Sacks also talked about Yammer.com, the firm's business-focused, instant messaging service recently spun out as a side project of the company and which has seen a great deal of attention from its recent award at the TechCrunch conference.
The "best of show" prize went to Magnify360, which develops software for optimizing content and web sites for specific users. Magnify360 was voted the best investment opportunity by both venture capitalist audience members and panelists. The panelists included James Cham of Bessemer Venture Partners; Beau Laskey of Steamboat Ventures; Greg Martin of Redpoint Ventures; Leo Spiegel of Mission Ventures; Ross Levinsohn of Velocity Interactive; Jim Armstrong of Clearstone Venture Partners; Mike Stuhley of the Tech Coast Angels; and Gus Tai of Trinity Ventures.