The 2013 Launch Festival has arrived and over the course of the next three days, over 50 companies are set to take the stage and demonstrate their product. Today was the day when 18 companies in so-called “stealth mode” made their grand debut and launched for the world to see. We took a look at each one and have highlighted the pick of the bunch.

In its sixth year (the first two were known as TechCrunch40 and TechCrunch50, respectively), the Launch Festival is put on by Mahalo founder and This Week in Startups host Jason Calacanis. Offering up to $2 million worth of prizes to the winners, it is divided up into two main competitions:

  • Launch 1.0: New companies that have never had any press, public demos, or services currently in closed alpha or beta.
  • Launch 2.0: Existing companies that are launching new products such as an iPhone app, or significant new versions of an existing product.

The first day centered around mostly those companies that fell into the Launch 1.0 category (although there were at least two that weren’t). Many were consumer-focused, while some were designed for the enterprise and business, but all came into the competition eager to advance into the final round for a chance at winning one of the awards.

Combing through the 18 presenting companies from Day 1, here’s the ones that stood out:

Whiplash

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The only company that presented today that specifically said that it was making money, Whiplash is a service that says it is pioneering fulfillment as a service.

The idea is that for those businesses that have orders that need to be shipped en masse, they need to have some system that will handle the logistics. Whiplash says it aims to do that by not only warehousing the products, but also shipping it to customers on demand using the business’s packaging — compared to Amazon where it arrives in that company’s branded packaging.

Whiplash says that it has grossed $500,000 with a 14 percent net-profit and is experiencing a 125 percent year-over-year growth. Bootstrapped without funding, the company makes its money from handling fees of $2.95 per item and the businesses also pay for the shipping costs. The service works worldwide.

Triptease

One of several travel-related services that presented today, Triptease is a visually-appealing way of posting reviews. The company believes that currently, reviews that a traveler would place or read on sites like TripAdvisor are outdated and require a makeover. With Triptease, now these same reviews can be punctuated with a sharp user-generated photo and made highly shareable.

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Available on both the Web and iPad, Triptease says that users can browse through other people’s travels “in technicolor”. Any reviews that are seen can easily be shared with the click of a button. Founder Charlie Osmond says that users can “see their review brought to life in an ‘Instagram moment’ and share it with the world.”

The service utilizes a custom review builder that allows users some customization in how their feedback looks like, both in layout and in style. In the end, it will be almost akin to being straight out of a fancy luxury hotel magazine. However, it’s not limited to hotels, but also places where anyone travels to.

To date, 30 hotels have signed up to be distribution partners for the service.

Instaradio

Very much analogous to being the “UStream for radio” or perhaps the “Tumblr for broadcasting”, Instaradio says it makes audio broadcasting simple through its iPhone application.

Users can stream music from their device’s music library, via the app, making it available to anyone with the unique link to the content. Narration can be included, almost like the user is actually on the radio. Instaradio says that a time limit does not exist for broadcasts and that it is ad-supported. All broadcasts, with the exception of the music aired, are archived for future referencing.

An interesting concept, there are some some concerns, however. The Launch judges raised an issue over potential copyright infringement, especially as music is being shared from someone’s music library that they may not have rights to.

Synata

Called the world’s “first enterprise cloud search engine”, Synata connects with many of the popular enterprise SaaS services to form what some might consider to be a one-stop search service. It looks not only at Gmail, but also Google Drive, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Yammer, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, and others.

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During its presentation, the company cited an example where an employee needed to be quickly briefed on a sales meeting as her colleague became incapacitated. The employee used their co-workers credentials to authenticate with Synata and immediately was able to query specific keywords to find out more about the meeting.

Synata describes its service as a way to find the needle in the enterprise data haystack and has a tiered pricing model, with one specifically allowing for a premium server to exist behind a company’s firewall. Right now it is a Web-only service, but an iPhone version is in the works.

Zillabyte

Back in 2011, former Google employee Jake Quist began working on a company that he hoped would disrupt the data analysis space alongside his co-founder Roger Dean Huffstelter, a former salesperson at Twilio. Called Zillabyte, its goal is to help business to business SaaS companies find their ideal customers — all through the use of cluster analysis.

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Upon leaving Google two years ago, Quist told TechCrunch, “we realized that data analysis outside the Googleplex kind of sucks. Big time. The tools available are so niche that only big enterprise can purchase them. The alternatives suck too.”

Just like you would imagine with a service like Google Analytics meets Google AdWords, users can specify the type of customers that they are looking for, such as whether they have a social media button on their website, sells products online, tracks analytics, uses online advertising, or whether it’s design savvy, and receive a better picture of how many companies should be targeted.

The recommendation engine will be free, but in the future the service is planning on releasing email notification alerts that are sent to customers when a new match is found. Those email alerts could be a premium service.

Knowyo

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Perhaps one of services that received near-unanimous approval from the Launch judges, Knowyo is a service that helps you better remember who you know. We’ve all been to those parties and events where we see individuals that we’ve met previously but we don’t remember where and what their names are. Knowyo offers up a bit of a gamification play to help users out.

By integrating with LinkedIn, this “fun product” hopes users will never forget a name again. The company says that when users begin, they have several choices to help them remember: guessing the name, receiving a hint or being given a letter in their name, or telling the service that they do not remember.

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Knowyo will provide users with a report of how they’re doing and offer up social sharing of the results to Twitter and Facebook.

Currently the service is only available on the Web and through the mobile browser. The company says it will charge businesses to use the service, starting at $20 per month. While it has integrated with LinkedIn, Knowyo says that it can also bring in Yammer and Salesforce Chatter in order to help build camaraderie among co-workers so that teams become more familiar with one another and their customers.

The verdict?

While the above were some that we found interesting, we make no assumption as to which one will advance to the final round where the chosen companies will present themselves once again to the grand jury. The Launch Festival continues now through Wednesday, March 6, in San Francisco. If you are not able to make it there in person, it is also being livestreamed.