Twiistup, a local tech conference that links entrepreneurs with investors and gives a sneak peak at budding startups, has gone international.

Unlike in previous years, when the event highlighted mostly local companies, Twiistup 7 – so named because it’s the seventh iteration of the conference – will give space to 10 companies, including a search engine startup from London and a media-sharing site from Tel Aviv, Israel. The conference will begin Wednesday evening at UCLA and continue Thursday at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Four of the other presenting companies are from the L.A. area. Another four will come from outside Los Angeles, including at least one from the Bay Area and one from Houston.

The presenting companies, called “showoffs,” will have space on the conference floor to set up booths and showcase products. Showoff executives will also have the chance to pitch attendees and a panel of judges who will critique their companies.

Francisco Dao, the conference producer, said the decision to include some international companies in the lineup was in keeping with his broader plans to widen Twiistup’s focus beyond the local scene. By including faraway companies, Dao hopes word of Twiistup spreads.

“If we’re going to show off Los Angeles, we can’t just show off to each other,” he said.

Twiistup started life in 2007 and quickly gained a reputation as an event where people from the local tech scene could meet and mingle, though it was more of a party than a conference. In May 2009, an anonymous investor purchased Twiistup with the goal of expanding it into a conference format and staging Twiistups in other cities. Dao was also brought in as producer.

For Twiistup 7, Dao has already lined up a list of prominent speakers, including Peter Guber, chairman of Mandalay Entertainment; Richard Rosenblatt, chief executive of Demand Media Inc.; and Paul Graham, founder of venture capital firm Y-Combinator.

Dao estimated that about 400 people will attend and said the event was nearly sold out.

Outside Box

Movie studios like to tout the number of special features they cram in the DVD release of blockbuster films. But what if they tried putting a special feature on the DVD box?

That’s essentially what L.A.-based Total Immersion does with a technology that it calls “augmented reality.” Essentially it works like this: The firm embeds its technology into an everyday object, such as a DVD box or a soft-drink can. When someone holds that object in front of a standard Web camera on a computer, a 3D image appears on the computer screen.

For instance, Total Immersion recently did a promotion with Coca-Cola Co. and the film “Avatar.” When a consumer held a Coke can in front of a Web cam, a 3-D image of a helicopter from “Avatar” appeared on the computer screen. The consumer could then “fly” the helicopter around the computer screen by moving the can in front of the camera.

Last week, Total Immersion announced it had embedded its technology into the DVD boxes of four recently released films, including “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Star Trek.” The movie studios pay Total Immersion for the promotions. Financial details of the deals weren’t disclosed.

When a purchaser of the “Transformers” DVD holds the box in front of a Web cam, two robots from the movie appear on the computer screen and battle it out, said Bruno Uzzan, chief executive of Total Immersion. The consumer can control the robots with a keyboard.

Buyers of the “Star Trek” DVD, meanwhile, are treated to a 3-D tour of the starship Enterprise when they hold the box in front of a Web cam.

The DVD deal represents the first time Total Immersion has put its technology into movie packaging. Uzzan said the company is in talks with all the major studios to do additional projects.

Uzzan said equipping DVD boxes with augmented reality gave consumers a reason to purchase DVDs at a time when sales have generally been declining. And it was a way to connect consumers and movies in a new way.

“You can interact with components from the movie, and that’s the kind of differentiation a major studio is looking for,” he said.

Bucks for Extrabux

A local startup started by two USC classmates recently raised $350,000 in funding.

Extrabux Inc., a Web site that aggregates comparison shopping data with information on online discounts and coupons, was founded by Noah Auerhahn and Jeff Nobbs, who graduated from USC in 2008. They won the school’s business plan competition in 2008 with the Extrabux concept.

The money was raised from Maverick Angels LLC, an investment group based in Westlake Village. The company plans to use the money to improve their site and launch a marketing campaign.

Staff reporter Charles Proctor can be reached at or at (323) 549-5225 ext. 230.

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