Startups Pitch New Tools for Business

A service for parcelling out shares in a young company and a Twitter-like tool for the workplace were among the enterprise products launched at the TechCrunch50 showcase for startup companies on Monday.

TechCrunch50, which runs Monday to Wednesday in San Francisco, is a competitor to the DEMO conference happening at the same time in San Diego, California. Both give companies fewer than 10 minutes to launch new products on stage before an audience of press and investors.

The service from FairSoftware helps new companies get off the ground without having to hire a lawyer to organize contracts or become incorporated to dole out shares. Companies start by registering at the FairSoftware site and entering personal details for each employee, along with the proportion of the shares in the company they own.

They aren't real shares traded on public markets, but they do have real monetary value. Every so often the company plugs its revenue figures and cost of doing business into the service, and the profit left over is paid to employees via PayPal accounts according to how many shares they own.

There is also a "software bill of rights" for employees to sign, a legally binding contract governing terms of employment. "We paid lawyers from a top Silicon Valley firm so that you don't have to," said the FairSoftware representative who pitched the product.

The service is in alpha testing stage, according to the FairSoftware Web site. No pricing was announced.

Yammer looks and works very much like Twitter except its users are asked "What are you working on" instead of "What are you doing." The answers are supposed to help useful information spread more easily inside companies and help employees feel more connected to each other.

Users can tag keywords and phrases they "yammer" about and the tags can be sorted by frequency to show what topics are hot in a company. New employees can search the system to find out who has useful knowledge they can mine.

The basic service is free, but companies must pay for administrative rights that allow them to block users, take down comments or make the system more secure by setting a range of IP addresses for computers that can post to its feed. The fee is $1 per employee per month and the service went live Monday, said Keith McCarty, a marketing manager.

Another company, Connective Logic, launched a graphical tool called BluePrint that aims to help developers take sequential software code and turn it into parallel code that can run on multi-core CPUs or across distributed servers. It will be available for trial in the coming days at ConnectiveLogic's Web site. The site is currently password protected because the wireless network at TechCrunch50 was poor and Connective Logic could not get online to unlock it.

Netscape veteran Marc Andreessen, who was on a panel judging the startups, called developing software for multicore chips 'the biggest programming challenge of our time."

Another startup, OpenTrace, is building a service that will let people measure the environmental footprint of products and services they buy, measured in carbon-dioxide emissions, including the energy used to create and deliver the product to the store. The company hopes producers will see OpenTrace as a marketing tool and help provide the information about how their products are made.

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