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Innovation Showcase 2013 Announced

The third annual Innovation Showcase program takes place at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2013 later this month. The mission is simple: identify and recognize young firms with innovative approaches to enterprise communications. This year a record 20 companies applied.

The submissions tell a broad story. Some of the applicants were geared more toward the CMO than the CIO. Some seemed to be inspired by science fiction shows, and others were highly targeted toward specific platforms such as Lync or Google Apps. A few were aimed at at specific verticals. A few innovations were in the area of management tools, and a fair share were cloud solutions. Of course, as always, a heavy share of solutions focused in the core areas of voice, conferencing, and mobility.

Each year, four companies are selected to be in the Innovation Showcase. As always, the four selections are unranked within the Showcase. This year's Innovation Showcase includes the following four companies:

* Nexistant: Offers a product called the Virtual Attendant, an interactive video kiosk solution for service applications like lobby reception, hotel concierge, retail store assistance, retail banking, etc.

* Plivo: Plivo enables enterprises, service providers and web developers to rapidly deploy carrier-agnostic voice, SMS, and WebRTC applications that can be fully integrated into websites or any telephony endpoint, fixed or mobile.

* Scoop: The Scoop Application is a mobile-first solution for multi-modal interactive collaboration among team members.

* ÜberConference: ÜberConference offers a fresh take on audio conferencing, using a freemium model without PIN codes and incorporates a visual dimension, along with analytics, and social integration.

it is always difficult to select just four companies for the Showcase. Judges review and evaluate the applicants with three criteria. The first is innovation; that's the hardest, as innovation is a slippery concept. It isn't as simple as being the first, it is more subjective than that. For example, The iPad is largely considered a highly innovative product, but really offered little more than a larger form factor than the previously available iPod Touch. The goal is to find new approaches and angles--which sometimes involves older technologies. The innovation category is given the most weight in the scoring.

The second criterion is enterprise fit. There are other venues to better spotlight innovative consumer and SMB solutions. The Enterprise Connect audience won't be satisfied with highly innovative solutions unless they potentially apply to the unique needs of enterprise organizations.

The third and final category is how well the product or service fosters communications and collaboration--the heart of the Enterprise Connect conference. Innovation and enterprise-appropriateness by themselves still represent too broad a set of criteria; Showcase companies must foster communications. That means it is either a communications solution, or fosters communications via management or other associative relationships.

The judges relied on additional subject area experts to facilitate final scoring. The judges included end users, analysts, and consultants. In some cases, the applicants were required to provide additional clarifying information or perform demonstrations. The evaluation process took about three weeks.

The four companies will each do a short presentation on Monday, March 18 at the Enterprise Connect conference. Two will present prior to the UC Summit at 11AM and the remaining two will present just prior to the Mobility Summit at 1PM. Additionally, all four will be featured in the Innovation Showcase space on the Enterprise Connect show floor during exhibit hall hours.

Congratulations to all four teams, and a big thank you to all applicants for applying.

Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz.

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