Barry Eitel

Remember how old movies used to portray the future as a chrome-colored tech wonderland (or, occasionally, a dystopian hell) where everyone was using video phones to communicate in their flying cars? With Skype and Facetime available on iPhones and iPads, that old future is our present (minus the flying cars - at least for now). Isn’t that nuts? However, we wouldn’t be where we are now without the imagination, sweat and dogged determination of brave innovators. And the wonderful thing about innovators, especially when they are in the early stages, is that they allow the rest of us to a glimpse a vision of the future that we couldn’t dream of before. Thus, they blow open our perception of the world by a little bit.

Luckily for us, ad:tech dedicated a whole alley to these bright-eyed tinkerers. Several will be competing in four different categories in the Startup Spotlight Series for the Innovation Award.

We’ve picked out a few exciting entries that you can check out in the Innovation Alley and onstage in the Spotlight Series. These are the companies that are courageously leading the way into the future. You will also find plenty of other great groups trying to leave their stamp on the tech world. Innovation isn’t always razzle and dazzle. Plenty of fresh young companies living in the Alley focus on creating simple and practical solutions to online advertising headaches. In general, Innovation Alley should receive a fairly large chunk of your attention just because at least some of these faces and new technologies will be the titans of tomorrow.

Gravity Jack and Augmented Reality

One of the craziest entries in the mobile bracket of the Spotlight Series is Gravity Jack, a group of software designers (who refer to themselves as “ninjas”) creating “augmented reality.” Is this augmented reality a “better” reality or a “more real” reality? You’ll have to check out the booth to get the answer. Whichever, Gravity Jack’s view of the world is awesome. With their software, moving the video camera of a tablet over, say, a photo of Lady Gaga, will play her latest music video. Shooting a video of a street will bring up customer reviews, websites, apartment rates, menus…the applications are truly limitless. Playful without pretension, the folks at Gravity Jack are taking the next step in making sci-fi dreams a reality. An augmented reality.

Stipple, Telling More Than a 1,000 Words

Another fresh face floating around in the ever-expanding cloud is Stipple, a company that links photo publishers with advertisers. Basically, Stipple creates interactive online photography. Love the dress that starlet was wearing on some red carpet? Search for an image in the cloud, move your cursor over the dress and, presto, find a price and a link where you can get one of your own! Once the cursor moves away, the image goes back to being crystal clear and uncluttered by outside ads. Stipple’s image-based vision is simple and elegant yet extremely creative.


Addroid is one of those innovators in the Alley providing solutions to the current ad climate. The California company’s focus is on making online video advertising simpler and less expensive. They will be competing in the video section for the Innovation Award. As opposed to websites cluttered with over-simplistic and jarring flash ads, Addroid’s vision of the Internet is full of engaging and stylish video. With Addroid, a marketing team can create ready-to-go ads from video in about 30 seconds and at a cost of 15 cents CPM. This company is innovating online advertising into something far more informative, interesting and affordable.


With the current generation of social media being almost a decade old, it’s amazing that new companies like Payvment are out there innovating, monetizing and reinventing the form for advertisers. Payvment allows users to create social media campaigns over several platforms, with both old standbys like email and Facebook as well as hot new things like Pinterest. A free version of the software allows anyone to launch a Facebook store, a whole new field of social media properties. The social media community of yesteryear was like a social club. Payvment is turning social media into a more complete community, helping bazaars, marketplaces and shops build up.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.