Best of 2010 Tech, Year In Review

This year has been loaded with innovations both online and off. Many of these innovations were made by the companies we would expect, like Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. But there were also some fresh faces that pushed us to new heights. As Tech Cocktail toured the country looking at new innovations and followed known companies throughout the year, several trends became very clear: 2010 was the year of the iPad, Facebook updates, daily deal services, mobile apps and social geo-location features.  Check out our list and if you think we’ve missed anything, leave a note in the comments.

The Year Of The iPad
In a year that started with a netbook frenzy, the iPad stole its thunder and was one of the most anticipated products ever. I would have to say that the iPad had by far the most impact on 2010. The large touch screen changed the way we interact with content and the Web forever as I shared in my first impression. With the iPad came innovations in publishing and distribution of content and utility. We were able to see the first usable digital newspapers like the NYTimes, USA Today and Wall Street Journal apps. The Flipboard iPad app launched to bring us an amazing new digital interface for consuming and interacting with content.

But the iPad wasn’t Apple’s only 2010 hit. We also saw the new iPhone 4 with FaceTime which connected people real-time to one another while on the go, as well as apps like Tango, Skype and more.

Mobile Apps Reigned
From a mobile application perspective, the Android platform made major headway as it gained on the Apple iPhone OS mindshare. With innovate apps like Layars, the Google Sky Map and many more, it’s clear the Android app marketplace is becoming a stong one. Microsoft also jumped into the mobile space with a valid competitor in the Windows Phone 7 and we followed its progress all year and shared a preview of the phone in DC and Chicago.

On the iPhone, new apps flowed in like a river. Instagram created a huge splash by snagging a million users in a very short period of time. Path made a lot of noise with it’s recent launch, while Angry Birds really caught people’s attention. Check out the top iPhone apps of 2010.

eBook Wars
Though this may have been the year of the iPad, Amazon didn’t exactly roll over and die. They introduced the new Kindle 3G Reader with an excellent price point and wired with connectivity. They also built their Kindle app to sync across platforms making it more ideal to purchase something for Amazon Kindle then through Apple’s store. Google recently jumped into the mix with it’s own multiple-platform eBook store, which went out the door with the largest ebookstore available online.

Facebook Is The Social King While Twitter Looks To Be The Content Queen
With close to 600 million Facebook users worldwide, a full length motion picture and a number of notable launches this year, it is pretty clear that 2010 was a big year for Facebook. The rollout of new profiles, location and deals all added to their social domination.

Twitter also had a good year, rolling out a fresh new look, reaching out to the community, and making important internal changes including promoting our old Chicago friend and longtime Tech Cocktailer Dick Costolo to the helm as Twitter CEO. They also made some moves to position Twitter more as a news network than a social network.

Once the social king (a few moons ago), MySpace relaunched to focus on entertainment. The redesign offered users a slick interface and more content. MySpace also announced a partnership with Facebook, which enables anyone to sign into MySpace with a Facebook account. Some saw this as waving the white flag while rumors surfaced that MySpace was getting shopped around.

TV Has Gone 3D and Gotten Smarter
Television is changing as 2010 offers up the first revision of 3DTV. We saw some interesting examples at CES 2010 and expect to see more this year at CES. Additionally, cable television is becoming less and less necessary. This year saw the most people drop cable television in years and we expect that trend to continue. The growth of the “Smart TV”, which includes products that Boxee TV, Google TV and Apple TV have begun to rollout, offers a tight connection between the Web and network television. This has created a number of ala carte options including YouTube, Vimeo and Podcasts as unique channels, essentially enabling anyone with a video camera to create their own television network the same way public access cable TV did almost 30 years ago. Hulu also rolled out Hulu Plus which turned its previously free model into a low cost internet TV option.

Social Geo-Location Is All Around You
Location based services have been a hot trend for the past two years but really heated up in 2010 as Foursquare and Gowalla battled it out while early trailblazer Brightkite decided to steer a different direction, towards group messaging. Facebook jumped into the mix and I thought it was going to be all over for Foursquare and Gowalla but as it turns out, they both made changes to stay in the mix. Foursquare added photo uploads and Gowalla rolled out a new version of their app that enables users to check-in on both Gowalla and Foursquare at the same time, also pushing updates to Facebook and Tumblr. SCVNGR has grown up fast from just year ago when they were demoing at our Boston mixer. They received funding from Google Ventures and haven’t looked back, taking on college campuses everywhere. They are definitely one to watch in the social geo-location landscape.

Daily Deal Mania
There was a huge trend in social commerce this past year. Groupon lead the daily deal charge with LivingSocial right on their heels (and sometimes leading). Both companies are growing like mad and taking on investments with multi-billion dollar valuations. Gilt Group also created some buzz as Jettsetter continued to offer dreamy diggs for travel to exciting destinations. Groupon also turned down a reported $6 billion acquisition offer from Google which may have been a tough decision, but no worry – the company continues to rake in money and rumor on the street is that they are looking to IPO. In the meantime, Tech Cocktail saw at least a dozen or more daily deal aggregators and specialized apps looking to get their own piece of the daily deal money pie.

Startups For Good
We saw a very encouraging trend in startups built for the greater good. That’s not to say they were nonprofits – most were not, and for the most part the startups we saw had sustainable, profit driven models and unique differentiators, but had a greater mission. Sites such as GiveLoop,, GiveForward, Galvanize, myImpact, BetterHumanRace and others give us interesting new ways to give back – something to be Thankfulfor.

A Great Time For Startups
It was a good a time as any to start a business or get a young company off the ground. We toured the country and showcased hundreds of early stage startups at our 20 events, and followed along with many others. In doing so, we saw lots of great ideas and some of them excelled very quickly. Here’s a sampling of exciting stories around young companies and entrepreneurs across the country, showing the diversity and breadth of activity happening in the tech landscape.

  • Uber (formerly UberCab) created a stir with its innovate take on a luxury car service, despite the cease and desist they received from the city of San Francisco.
  • Postling founder Dave Lifson stayed at the Tech Cocktail SXSW HQ and shared his story of how he raised $200K in just 6 days at SXSW. Postling also demoed at our NYC event in November and shared some insights on starting up in New York.
  • Edmodo, a Tech Cocktail Chicago showcase alum from back in 2008, has been growing and announced Edmodo got funded by Union Square Ventures.
  • AwayFind, a DC-based startup that demoed at early Tech Cocktail DC events, raised some funding, moved to San Francisco and launched an iPhone app.
  • Plancast, the SF-based social event calendar, launched its iPhone app and came up big at SXSW.
  • LivingSocial has been growing like mad, while acquiring companies and rolling out new services like LivingSocial Escapes. Co-Founder Aaron Batalion shared some insights on LivingSocial their startup Pivot.
  • ClearSpring, a DC Tech Cocktail showcase startup alum, continued to grow as it hit 1 billion users and evolve with the launch of its Audience Platform.
  • FiltrBox, a Boulder Tech Cocktail alum and TechStars company was acquired by Jive Software.
  • DailyBurn (formerly Gyminee), a Boulder Tech Cocktail alum and TechStars company was acquired by IAC.
  • GrubHub, an early Chicago showcased startup, had a big year as they rolled out new mobile apps, raised funding and made the Inc 500. We caught up with CEO Matt Maloney in DC this past year.
  • SingleHop, an early Chicago supporter, is one of the fastest growing companies and an Inc 500 company.
  • OpenCandy helped rally the San Diego tech community as they look to build an interesting culture in southern California.
  • SCVNGR opened up their beautiful Cambridge office to host a Tech Cocktail breakfast showcasing some local Boston startups (more on SCVNGR later).
  • Palantir shared a peak into their office as they help bring a Silicon Valley approach to Washington, DC.
  • Airbnb has been around for a while, but this seemed to be their year. They shared some insights on how to grow a two sided network at the Y Combinator Startup School.
  • Aol separated from Time Warner and relaunched with a startup mentality this year – a startup with lots of cash, as they showed by acquiring TechCrunch, Thing and others this year.

What Will 2011 Bring?
There is no doubt that technology will continue to evolve and thrive in 2011. This next year could also be the year of commercial space travel as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and others look to take people to space for leisure. While the iPad made a huge impact in 2010, this is just the beginning of the tablet wars. We expect a slew of competitors in 2011 and expect Apple to combat it with version two of the iPad. 3DTV and movies started to move forward in 2010 and we expect that to continue in 2011 as more and more consumers have access to the consumption and creation devices. We also expect to see more trends around group messaging apps and some great advances in financial technologies. We definitely believe that technologists will redefine banking and credit cards as we know them. Finally, with all the daily deals trends this past year it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Will their be a boom or will daily deal sites bust in 2011? Or perhaps some consolidation as larger players have the capital to buy up innovative startups.

Tell us what you think 2011 will bring in the comments below.

Motherboard Dreams image by dailyinvention.

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Written by:
Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.
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