I really wanted to go to the TechCrunch20 conference in San Francisco this week, but decided not to (didn’t want to leave Megan alone with the kiddos). But today I was reading some reports from the conference and I’m kicking myself for not going.
The idea behind the TechCrunch conference is simple: Forty “Web 2.0” start-ups demo their new products and compete for attention and cash prizes. It would be a blast to see so many ideas in just two days.
Several of the companies presenting are in an emerging category that I’ve been thinking about a lot — I call it “personal analytics”. The idea behind personal analytics is this: Today’s consumer is in a constant state of information overload, and they need help making sense of it all. A few examples of personal analytics products from the conference:
- xobni – A downloadable email assistant that helps you use email more efficiently. There is a ton of useful information buried in the thousands of emails we all receive each month. I installed this product today and so far it seems genuinely useful. (Side note: In 1998, Lance and I wrote a business plan for a product called “Wingman” that was almost identical to xobni. Wingman was the predecessor to iChoose)
- mint – Brings together all of your financial information (bank, credit card, investment, etc.) and helps you understand the big picture. This idea has been tried many times before with complete lack of success. We’ll see if it works this time.
- TripIt – Helps you organize your travel plans. You simply email receipts and itineraries for your flights, hotels, etc. to TripIt and it creates a master itinerary plus adds in other useful information such as weather.
I also consider companies like Farecast and Zillow (which help you mine flight and real estate data respectively) to be in the personal analytics category. All of these products aggregate and organize lots of personal and publicly available data and provide a clean, simple interface to help you be more efficient and make smart decisions.
Computers and the Internet were supposed to make our lives easier. We certainly have access to more information than ever, but we lack the time and tools to take advantage of it. Personal analytics products solve that problem.