Editor’s note: The following report comes from Don Dodge, who blogs at Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing and is a Developer Advocate for Google. TechStars is a seed accelerator program that selects about ten companies a year and provides funding of $18,000 per team, as well as support and mentorship. Dodge covered the last Boulder TechStars class in August, 2009 when six companies (including SendGrid and Next Big Sound) went on to secure venture investment of more than $10 million in total.
TechStars has now been operating for four years. According to results data that TechStars has published, six of the first twenty companies to go through the program have been acquired by larger companies, and about 70% of its companies have been funded and/or are now profitable. This week, TechStars is debuting 11 new startups from the fourth Boulder class. The teams are presenting on Thursday to about 250 VCs and angel investors for the first time. These companies are about three months old and have two or three founder employees. Below are Don’s notes on the startups that presented.
ADstruc is an auction and listing marketplace for outdoor billboard advertising. The company says that outdoor advertising purchases are currently managed offline. They provide an online inventory management service for sellers, as well as a marketplace for transactions. Today, it’s difficult for would-be buyers to identify and purchase outdoor advertising. ADstruc aims to bring the same level of access and transparency to the outdoor advertising market as Google does with Adwords for keyword search.
StatsMix allows companies to easily build, visualize, and share custom management dashboards for displaying and analyzing key metrics from their own Websites and external APIs. StatsMix already supports and integrates with metrics from about 30 popular web services, including Google Analytics, Quantcast, MailChimp, Freshbooks, Twitter, Facebook, Get Satisfaction, WordPress, and YouTube, and is adding more regularly. They also provide a REST based API and other simple mechanisms to integrate with internal metrics. The company showed off a unique “insight engine” which automatically draws correlations between various metrics, helping users to quickly identify what may be driving trends or anomalies.
GearBox is a smart toy company that has created a robotic ball which is controlled via a smartphone. Applications can be built on the smartphone via a simple API which requires minimal coding. Early applications include “Sumo,” where two people attempt to knock each other off of a table, “Golf,” where you swipe the phone to shoot the ball at the hole, and “Kittens,” in which users can earn points by playing with their cat and causing certain interactions. Here’s a video of the ball that has already attracted 63,000+ views. The company has other smart toys already in development that will use a similar API.
Vacation Rental Partner makes it easy to manage your vacation rental home. Targeted at individuals who have vacation rental homes that they manage who don’t want to pay 30-50% of their income to management companies, Vacation Rental Partner handles the entire process including managing booking requests, contracting, billing, as well as handling outside vendors such as housekeepers and pool cleaners. The system allows homeowners to manage their vacation rental calendar in one place, but allows for automatic distribution to popular advertising outlets such as VRBO, Craiglist, and many others.
Omniar wants to make the real world clickable. They demonstrated impressive visual search technology that enables others to easily build applications using their toolkit. They are working with early adopters in the real estate, museum, and retail sectors, enabling them to allow one-click visual search and information retrieval. For example, Omniar is working with real estate companies to allow users to simply snap a photo of a home which then returns information about it. For museums, they demonstrated snapping a photo of a specific piece of art and then quickly retrieving details about it such as the artist and the story behind it. The interesting thing here is that Omniar allows anyone to enable their own applications with visual search capabilities, using their own corpus of data. Those customers can use Omniar’s technology to “scan” in the 3D models using the mobile phone as well, by simply recording a video from multiple angles. Omniar says that it is different from other visual search technologies by their unique ability to recognize fully 3D objects from any angle.
Spot Influence finds top influencers for specific topics across the entire web including Twitter, blogs, and other types of content. The company provides a search engine and has made their technology available using APIs for partners who want to integrate it more fully. Rather than using a generic “influence score” and focusing just on Twitter, Spot Influence searches the entire web and returns results based on influence for specific topics.
BlipSnips is a way to create social context around specific moments in time in a video. Long-form videos are hard to “sample” or quickly “scan” and as a result don’t attract the quick social web interactions that shorter clips do. BlipSnips allows users to easily share specific moments in a video across their social graph and increases engagement with those videos. BlipSnips has a set of free consumer tools, but also works with video publishers to drive engagement for commercial video.
Kapost creates a marketplace for web content. It enables publishers to use the same crowd-sourced virtual newsroom approach popularized by The Huffington Post and others. Kapost works with existing content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal via plugins, and enables publishers to collect and manage content from a network of community members or external contributors. Kapost provides both the tools to manage the process as well as a marketplace for publishers and contributors and tracks reputation, manages rights, and handles payment transactions between parties.
RentMonitor takes the headache out of being a landlord. Targeted at landlords who are managing 3 to 50 properties, the system handles rent collection, advertising, tenant screening, maintenance, and tax issues for landlords. If you have ever rented a property either as a landlord or as a tenant you will understand the need for automating the process. As a tenant, wouldn’t it be great to just fill out one set of documents, background checks, credit checks, and use it to apply to multiple landlords? The system is very affordable, ranging from just $5-$50 per month depending on the number of units being managed.
ScriptPad transforms the iPad and iPhone into a digital prescription pad allowing doctors to write prescriptions faster and safer than their existing paper process. ScriptPad eliminates deadly prescription writing mistakes that contribute to over 7,000 deaths each year and sends the prescription directly to the patient’s pharmacy. The company integrates with all major pharmacies through existing partnerships. ScriptPad described a “magic” business model, in which even their free users generate revenue for the company because they are paid for each prescription that is transmitted. ScriptPad also offers a premium version that qualifies doctors for government incentives. Here’s a fun Apple-style video showing how their e-prescribing application works.
RoundPegg scientifically ensures that every hire you make is a fit for your company culture. According to RoundPegg, half of all hires fail due to poor fit with the company employees and culture. Most companies do a great job of hiring for skills, but they are flipping a coin when it comes to cultural fit. Through simple self-service surveys, RoundPegg blends technology with psychology. It allows hiring managers to make sure candidates have a strong fit, provides interview questions to ask, answers to look for, and pros and cons that are specific to the match between the candidate and the company, the team, and the hiring manager.