Morning panels at this year’s TechCrunch 50, which showcases 50 startups over two days, have wrapped up in San Francisco today, and so far we’ve seen big announcements from the non-startup world. Mint confirmed that it’s being acquired by Intuit (s intu), and Microsoft (s msft) unveiled a visual search feature on Bing that lets users browse through web images, such as digital cameras or past presidents of the United States, rather than links. The feature, which is publicly available in beta today, will be particularly useful for online shopping because you can narrow your search to display images for a specific price point or choose to view the top products searched by users.
|What the web is saying:|
|Twitter user Alexia Tsotsis: Q: “What’s your business model?” (re: Clicker) A: “Make money.” Nice.|
|PC World: [regarding Bing Visual Search] Thanks to a slick user interface kicking virtual tires of cars is loads of fun, but what makes this technology really handy is its ability to winnow down you search. On the left-hand side are tools for narrowing the number of cars by 25 most popular, SUVs, or make and base price. Each time you select a preference the number images is reduced.|
|Startup Marketing Blog by Sean Ellis: Kids are a notoriously difficult market to acquire online. But in the case of ToyBots, I believe they are targeting a fantastic opportunity. It is likely that connected toys will be the next generation in toys and I love their example of having grandma read a story to the grandkids through the toy.|
|TechCrunch: [regarding Clicker] The goal is really to be the best search engine for video content. Clicker will point you in the direction of whatever you are looking for (and will do embeds if they’re available), but won’t serve up the videos themselves. They will also delve into surfacing content not explicitly produced for television, but is still high quality web video content. But they don’t want to be YouTube, which is cluttered with user-generated content. Clicker is going for a different market.|
|Twitter user Harry McCracken: Wacky names on #tc50 banner: Sprowtt, Thoora, Kneecapz, Radiusly, Yext, Udorse, Threadsy. (I made 1 of those up.)|
|TechCrunch’s Paul Carr: Time for TechCrunch50: where thousands of struggling entrepreneurs spend three grand they can barely afford to watch 50 of their peers dancing like malnourished bears for the approbation of Jason Calacanis! It’s like Christians and lions meets Satan’s own version of speed dating, with added Scoble! What’s not to love?|
|Technologizer: [regarding Spawn] It worked well in the demo — which isn’t a given, since several TechCrunch50 debutantes haven’t — and if it does what it’s supposed to, it’s going to be cool. Spawn says that games look good and there’s virtually no latency on home networks and only a tiny bit over the Internet, but even the impressively engineered SlingBox sometimes has trouble dealing with chokey real-world Internet connections. I’ll believe it when I play it.|
For startups that had a tie-in to mobile, it was clear that the iPhone was the platform of choice today. Vegas magicians Penn & Teller developed an iPhone application, which is currently available in the iTunes Store for $1.99, that’s a magic card trick you can play with your friends. It fools your friends into thinking you actually know Penn & Teller by sending texts to your phone from one of the two magicians who guess what playing card your friend has in mind. The app is a clever idea, but something users could tire of quickly after trying it on their friends a few times.
StorySomething took the stage next, with a service that lets parents create personalized children’s books for their kids on its web site. Once the book is created, parents can print out the story or, to be more eco-friendly, email it to their iPhone. Toybots built a platform that connects physical toys to online and mobile games. Using the iPhone, for example, parents on a business trip can record themselves reading a bedtime story to their child via an app built on the Toybots platform, and then send the recording over the web to the child’s stuffed toy.
Personalization was another theme that surfaced multiple times during the panels. During this morning’s panel on youth and games, many of the startups touted products that users can tailor to their interests and personality. The unanimous favorite of the judge panel was ToonsTunes, a web site where kids can create their own music in a space-based virtual music studio. ToonsTunes taps into the hot music game market that’s been dominated by video games companies such as Activision’s (s atvi) Guitar Hero and Electronic Arts’ (s erts) Rock Band and, according to the judges, should be the startup to watch. Other upstarts that touched on the personalization theme are Clasemovil, a web-based learning community for Latin American students that lets them pick which educational games they want to complete, and Sealtale, which lets people pick and create stickers they can put on their web pages and blogs.