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4 Standouts, 1 Clunker From Demo Tech Event

Watch out, Salesforce (CRM), NetSuite (N), Amazon (AMZN) and Cisco (CSCO): A big, bad group of start-ups is coming for your lunch.

The tech industry's version of speed dating, known as Demo Fall 2010, finished off a few weeks ago in Santa Clara, Calif. Start-ups at various levels of funding and development get six minutes to stand up and pitch the larger venture capital world, vying for their piece of start-up love. I've always been divided by this event. It all harks back to the nonsensical days of the 1999 Web bubble, and there are some real duds here. Anybody remember from the DEMO Fall 07 show? I didn't think so.

Demo Show
Some great start-ups pitched at Demo Fall 2010 in Santa Clara, Calif.

But the fact remains that excellent ideas bubble up at this event. I have had a couple of weeks to break down some of the more interesting new small businesses there, and here are the ones that grabbed my attention:

Zingaya (one line free, plus usage)
It's easy to dismiss Web-initiated telephony as a techno nonstarter in this age of Google (GOOG) Voice. But there's something downright crafty about London-based Zingaya. The firm has created a simple-to-deploy, one-click phone app that connects anybody on your website to your inbound business phone number. Just hit the button on your PC's screen and a visitor to your site is talking to a sales rep. Many other tools try this, but Zingaya is about the best I have touched.

Cyncz (public beta is free)
Talk about being fearless: Germantown, Md.-based Cyncz is attempting to go where Google, Microsoft (MSFT), Motorola (MOT), Facebook and pretty much everybody in the mobile and social world cannot: syncing and updating contacts across all platforms. The company has built a Web-based contacts tool that cleverly sucks contact information from most any place that carries your identity, and then keeps all that data up to date across all tools. My shop tracks north of 4,000 contacts, and so far performance is impressive. If you are tired of not having the right contact on hand, give Cyncz a try.

Ether2 (price varies by deployment)
Ether2 attempts to create a low-cost multiplatform networking tool that upgrades today's disorganized Internet infrastructure. The idea is to seek out so-called Web bottlenecks and use a mix of networking tools to improve performance. It won't be easy for the Los Angeles-based operation, since deploying interoperable networking technologies across tools from different companies such as Cisco, Nortel (NTL) and all the rest is no joke. But still, the notion of reweaving the kludged up Web is long overdue.

CloudBasic (price varies by deployment)
The CloudBasic tool automates the process of taking business systems that live inside in-house computers and takes them out into the Internet. At least in theory, it should let firms Web up their operations without going through the full agony of a migration to Web-based tools such as Who knows if this can actually work in the real world, but at least as a demo, this is one sweet idea.

And one to not worry about: (free)
No kidding, the big idea here is to turn your car's license plate information into a social content hub. The service takes your plate number and ties it to mobile commerce, social posts and even your location and puts it all up on a site. Maybe I just don't spend enough time behind the wheel, but besides the fact that I am not sure I want my license plate data broadcast all over the Web, why on earth would I need to know that much about those who are driving next to me on the highway?

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on Fox News and The WB.

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