Techpitch 4.5 from 2pears ( @2_pears ) brings together the bachelors and debutantes of London’s tech scene for a beauty parade of the finest start-ups around the roundabout. It’s a frequent affair, and thus offers a reliable flow of news on what’s hot.

Today’s guest speaker was Paul Murphy from Alphaville, the new quickfire blog from the FT ( @ftalpha ). The take away for me from this talk was the admission that his readers often know more than the FT reporters. Whilst those familiar with mid-market newspapers in the UK won’t be at all surprised to know that they’re smarter and better informed than journalists, a claim like this from the FT is welcome humility which will surprise and honour many of its readers.

First of the startups was AirPOS ( @airpos ). I love this kind of firm, because it does something boring that makes lots of money. They provide point-of-sale machines based on cloud technology, primarily to smaller businesses. Sadly, the founder scuttled off too quickly for me to grill him about the intricate details of platform, product and price, but suffice to say it’s a potentially major disruptor. Likely to sit a little above the likes of Square and iZettle in the retail food chain, this is probably my personal favourite from the pitches. The judges wanted more detail on how their freemium-led sales strategy would work. AirPOS unfortunately didn’t get on the podium at the end.

BardOwl ( @bardowl ) are the Spotify of audio books. They take existing audio book content, and re-licence it with a new model: subscription based streaming. Audio CDs are fading away as a medium, particularly so in the books sector. Whilst Audible is dominant in books at present, they’re restricted to title sales only. BardOwl allows publishers to track and monetize each individual title, whilst consumers benefit from a simple subscription fee. They provide an app which caches hours of listening for a convenient, instant-play experience. Maybe I’m biased, because I love audio books, but I think this is a neat business which could end up being a profitable also ran, or even end up romping home ahead of Audible. However, the judges reckoned it needed more than just a novel charging model, and gave the business a mid-ranking 4th place.

Busyflow ( @natkins ) integrates cloud services such as Dropbox and Yammer. It’s conceptually similar to products such as Seesmic and HootSuite, but instead of social media, it integrates productivity apps. This cuts down the time spent managing information across these platforms. Personally, I have to agree with the questions from the judges, which implied they didn’t personally see the need. I guess that larger corporate clients, who routinely use cloud services for a significant fraction of each day, could see some fairly major time benefits from these efficiency savings. The busyflow sales strategy is freemium, with usage limits set by team size and storage volume. The firm goes by the ‘dogfooding’ principle (i.e. using their own product at work). Concerns about ultimate market size must have been set aside, as this won the Judge’s second place.

GoCarShare ( @gocarshare ) is run by the unassuming but tenacious Drummond Gilbert. Despite a steep cultural slope to climb persuading British people to share their car with relative strangers, the GoCarShare brand seems to be steadily gaining traction. With priority car parking deals at major UK festivals such as Reading, this is a brand that can demonstrate it’s being taken seriously. What’s more, aggregators are becoming interested in their content. However, the Achilles’ heel is that it’s tricky to keep users on the platform for the high-volume, regular journeys that form the commercial backbone of transport sales. Contrast the miles you spend going to work with the miles you spend going to occasional destinations, such as holidays. You can then appreciate why potential ‘leakage’ of users from the platform into direct relationships is so troubling. Nevertheless, GoCarShare romped home at the awards, with a second-place audience prize, and the judges’ favourite. Traction, innovation and a market-leading position clearly count for a lot – even if the ultimate size of the pie is uncertain.

Integrity Capital aimed to provide a standardised, outsourced due diligence service for investors. Pitching without slides, Simon Gall’s case was questioned by the judges due to concerns as to whether the DD process could be made into a manageably standard product. Whilst Simon responded by explaining their customisation options, the arguments clearly didn’t convince the audience, and I don’t recall any independent votes for the brand.

Movellas ( @movellas )offered an unusual self publishing approach, which aimed to serve the teen market using teen authors. This is an unusual approach, and it seemingly relies on getting quality content from a creative sector not known for it’s commercial success. Whilst the arts regularly produce of successful young stars in other genres such as film and music, it’s rare that commercially successful authors produce their best work in their teens. The platform’s charging model takes control of the content, and provides a 70:30 revenue share – much like Apple’s app store, but with a seemingly more rigid copyright policy. They’ve got plenty of competition from SmashWords and Amazon self-publishing, but the judges rewarded their bold approach with third place.

I’ve seen Julian McCrea ( @julianmccrea ) from Portal Entertainment before. I found his immersive, adult-oriented multimedia game both innovative and unsettling. Knowing I might get rung up by a robot stalker after playing it was a strangely disturbing experience. This boundary-pushing creativity was continued in the new offering, which uses direct measurement of the player’s facial expression to guide the story. If you act scared, they’re coming to get you…. Somehow, though, the genius of the founder didn’t quite come across in this particular pitch. Despite being an accomplished TV writer, something of the potential of the game got lost in translation, and Portal didn’t get the podium finish I feel Julian could have achieved.

Last and certainly not least, with the 1st place audience vote, was TellyO ( @TellyoTV ). This unusual idea attempts to automate and facilitate the sharing of TV moments. Whether it’s a magical goal or a hilarious blooper, TellyO allows you to cut the footage as you’re watching, and then send it to a friend. Chatting to them later, I think there’s a lot of work needed before they have a slick user experience – but the idea clearly has potential. It’s one of those things that it will be hard to imagine we lived without in ten years time. The only question for me is whether it will be TellyO, or a potential competitor like Shazam, who ultimately claims the prize.

TechPitch 4.5 is a firm favourite of mine, and I’ll definitely be back.