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I’m sitting here today at the TechCrunch40, listening to various companies pitch their wares to the people and press that are attending (I’m here as invited press, so will give overview of the companies and what I thought).

I have been thinking about community lately – and how community is involved in PR (and how we have lost our way in community). And the real interesting thing for me here at the TC40 is the community of TechCrunch. We all know that if your client / company is on TechCrunch (the site), you get an immediate bump of 100K+ members / views of the site. You potentially get those people to sign up for your beta preview, or to try out your service (it’s a number game). So, the TechCrunch community (CrunchNotes, MobileCrunch, Crunchgear – and all its readers) is an early adopter community – or one of a lot of MBA students – that is looking for the next cool thing.

TechCrunch 40 PicsBut, well, is that community enough? Thinking back to two sites that had a big push on TechCrunch – Riya and IILWY – do you really hear much about either? As a PR person for a start-up, or Web 2.0 company, you really do need to court TechCrunch for that bump, but it is not a long term community. These are not necessarily the people that are going to continue to use your site, but are the first (albeit big) push into community. Look at Riya – they never really moved into the photo community (one I know quite well from Kodak and Ofoto) and that could have kept the company, well, relevant.

The point here, though, is to look at the TC40 companies, and to see what they are doing for the various communities and how they are doing their pitches.

Powerset: an interesting idea – real search via real words – but going up against a powerhouse in Google. Is there an opportunity for a non-niche / non-vertical search engine (there’s a reason I’m bullish on TheFind, SimplyHired, etc – they fill a need that is not fully met) – but not sure about

Cognitive Code: pretty cool AI application that responds to voice commands, and talks back to the human. Think HAL, but not sure if it’s going to kill people. (Just a joke). The demo ran through working with the AI application on the desktop, but talked about CES announcements. Om Malik picked them as a survivor on their own.

CastTV: search for video across the Intenet, up-to-date of the latest videos. Like I noted prior, I like vertical search, and this one aggregates various video sites per term. A supplementing of metadata goes into the search and program. Om thinks they are an acquisition target.

Faroo: P2P search engine. From what I could gather, it’s search powered by a P2P network (like Skype? like the UFO project?) and decentralizes the Internet. I think.

Viewdle: Another video search engine – "it’s in the cut" – that is based on video-on-demand. No more tagging, etc. It’s automatically done with the searching and recognition. So, it’s facial recognition in video, that can aggregate other videos that the person appears in. Om thinks they are an acquisition target.

Cubic Telecom: Roaming for mobile phones, but gets rid of the mobile roaming costs via Max Roam that charges only theTechCrunch 40 Pics local rates for international calls, no matter where you are. Cool idea, but can see the carriers killing it. It’s minute stealing, as noted by Om – and an outside chance that they are going to be around.

Yap: Speech-recognition for the cell phone, that does involve an aspect for vocal search. So, think of text messaging that can be done via speech to the phone – so convert to text your speech (like for Twitter or to friends). Prety cool idea but not sure the viability, or how it can be done with other speech recongition companies.

Ceedo: Mobile virtualization. See all your images, etc from a PC-based program (like Picasa). Or, make edits from your phone on PC-based applications, a full browsing environment on your mobile phone. You can use PC’s as a terminal for your usage, via your mobile phone. First thought is that unless you’re on an iPhone, isn’t the screen too small to really do anything?

Loudtalks: Walkie Talkie for cell phones. It’s a wanna-be Skype. I think. Or, an IM program that is voice / talking. Ryan Block noted that it can just be a plug-in, or maybe as a widget on web pages as push-to-talk.

Trutap: Targeting teens – I love when middle-aged white men target teens (okay, sounds creepy) – in an all-in-one social network that extends all carrier networks, so all your friends are in one community. Mobile-based, only – but with a Web-based aggregating of the information, logs, etc. A sorta Facebook Mobile competitor, with more instant chat capabilities. Om notes them as most likely to be acquired.

Storyblender: Videos together – how to create videos with a bunch of other people. Comes from the creators of Cyworld, so, there is some street cred (and a US-client for disclosure). It’s online video collaboration, where you can add text, information, etc.

Tripit: The goal is to make travel "dead simple" and make the itinerary simple and easy – without all the pages to print. It’s not about booking, but managing your travel information. You email your confirmations to the site, and it aggregates all your information for one travel itinerary – and then does weather, directions, etc for the user. It’s a personal travel assistant online.

Flock: Um, why are they are here? I thought it was a start-up only conference, and Flock can’t be considered an unknown startup. I stopped listening, because it continues to be half-vapor. Ohhh, they are finally in a 1.0 version.

Musicshake: It’s about user generated media, in an easy way that belies any musical skills. You can add different sounds, vocals, guitars, etc to create your own music, as well as record your own voice for vocals. And, you can sell the music if someone finds it on one of the sites, as shared revenue.

8020Publishing: The rebirth of the published magazine, and modern publishing is the best of Web and the best of print to come together. They are the founders of JPG Magazine. Launching the new Everywhere magazine, a group travel magazine.

AOL (special preso): Share multimedia memories in a new way with Bluestring. The way I read it is as online scrapbooking, with the AOL twist. I have a special place in my heart for AOL, so I think I’ll give it a benefit bc they are an amazing community that gets the short shrift online.

TechCrunch 40 PicsCake Financial: The power of the community to invest. What are your friends investing in, and should you. Also aggregates all your investment information onto one page (if you have multiple accounts at various brokerage houses). Business school guys will go nuts for this, the average consumer would likely not want to get involved in opening their own kimono.

Docstoc: Finding the documents you need quickly and easily. For free. The examples given were sample business plans, presentations, etc. Most likely user: college students looking for papers. Think of it as the online file cabinet from the fraternity house.

Teach The People: Peer to peer collaborative education. Running a learning community that shares in the advertising revenue generated, or charge people for classes. Interesting way to do things – the collaborative nature of education where people share their knowledge (or them smarts) with others.

CrowdSpirit: Crowd sourcing from France, but for products rather than just Websites. It’s all about consumer electronics rather than just Web 2.0 / Websites. Interesting take on crowdsourcing, but going up against the large manufacturers and new economies.

Ponoko: Make your own products, toys, jewelry, etc and have them delivered to your house. You upload the images, etc and you get the final product. So you create it, we build it for you. You can also sell your idea / designs to other people, so they can order the product.

The interesting thing to note from the first day at the event is that many of the companies emphasized the community aspects of their sites. Community has become a comfodified buzzword (like they were all told to emphasize their community aspect), and not sure if they really understood what the community should be. Yes, these companies today are going to get a bump at the conference in users, but at the same time, can they keep that interest for the long-term beyond the bump….

Oh, you can check out the rest of the Flickr photos here.

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