Last year was TechCrunch‘s first shot at a demo-ish conference. Forty startups launched and presented their premise to a crowd of bloggers, journalists, VCs and such and such. Last year’s winner was personal finance tracker Mint allows you to sync up all of your credit cards, loans, bank accounts and even reward points and track your entire financial well-being. It creates budgets for you and makes them pretty.

The issue? Mint is really just a re-skinned version of Yodlee. Yodlee is a bank account aggregation tool that makes itself available to banks who want to offer their customers the same sort of “one look” aggregation services in a white-label manner. They’re good at what they do, and they offer a free personal edition called MoneyCenter. Mint simply slapped a bunch of pretty gradients on top of it (they actually use Yodlee as their backend) and some transaction matching algorithms that generally miscategorize items or retitle them if it thinks it knows what they were. (It’s wrong, in my experience, a staggering amount of the time.)

They also use your information to peddle credit card and savings account deals to you, because they can give customized estimates and let you see what you could save by going elsewhere. Their entire business model is reskinning another company’s product offering and earning referral commissions with their bit of logic.

Now I’m not saying Mint isn’t pretty. I’m not saying it’s not a better option than straight up Yodlee, though their transaction-matching will make you want to commit murder. But what I *am* saying is that reskinning another site is nowhere near innovative, clever and cool enough to have set them apart from the 39 other great companies at TechCrunch last year.

Well guess what? Fail strikes again. TechCrunch announced this year’s winner: Yammer. Michael refers to it as “Twitter with a business model” and that should be enough right there. It’s basically a corporate-network-limited Twitter. You have to register with a corporate email address, and your “tweets” are kept private only to others within that network. That’s it. It’s otherwise identical to Twitter. Yammer makes a quick buck by allowing HR departments at these organizations to “take ownership” of their own domain’s on Yammer by paying $1/user for the privilege.

Oh, and they ask “what are you working on?” instead of “what are you doing?” Call me crazy, but any company that has essentially refactored another, popular site’s concept into a small, microcosm, tightly focused business model is in for a MAJOR ass-kicking when papa bear decides to build their own iteration of this functionality. Why the hell shouldn’t Twitter tomorrow announce Twitter Corporate or Twitter Networks. Allow you to select which networks you belong to, continue to restrict access by company domain emails and hide certain tweets or allow them to be targeted: HOLY SHIT YOU JUST DESTROYED THE ENTIRETY THAT IS YAMMER.

My point is this: With absolutely nothing else to differentiate here, there is nearly NO innovation and definitely NO justification for them to have won this year’s TechCrunch50: 10,000 new members and 2,000 organizations is nothing; Twitter can do it better and if anyone bright over there actually has a say, something like this would be simple (relatively) to implement and MUCH more convenient for existing users of Twitter.

(Disclosure: One of our internal projects was one of the 100 TechCrunch40 finalists in last year’s competition. We were nowhere near far enough along with it, however. Point remains that plenty of the other companies at both events had more merit for the prize by FAR.)

Posted in: Rants