The San Francisco Bay Area burnished its reputation as an innovation hub with the TechCrunch50 conference this week, a gathering of start-ups, venture capitalists, analysts and other tech industry insiders. Fledgling companies’ offerings varied from financial services products to widgets to the requisite array of social networking and gaming sites.
But a handful of outliers drew enthusiastic whoops and hoots from the audience watching on-stage demos. Panelists time and again drilled presenters on product scalability and revenue models, and one was ready to shoot down Birdpost.com – a Web site for birdwatching enthusiasts to track, compile and share bird observations – until he learned that roughly 18 million of those enthusiasts in the U.S. spent more than $32 billion on birding-related products and activities in 2001. By 2006, those figures swelled to 20 million active birdwatchers spending a large chunk of the $46 billion total that wildlife watchers across the U.S. spent on trips and gadgets.
“What we’ve really created is a framework for collecting,” Birdpost.com co-founder Ben Crockett said in a phone interview the day after his TechCrunch presentation. “It really draws on that inherent desire we have to collect and catalog and know.”
And while one panelist suggested birdwatching was “a little bit geriatric,” and so perhaps too much of a niche market, another pointed out the opportunities in making content available to young’uns: “This seems like a natural for classrooms, which is also going to be an unbelievable way for you guys to start marketing the product.”