On Wednesday, startup incubator DreamIt Ventures is graduating fourteen new companies from its Philly 2011 class. It’s the fourth program from DreamIt in Philadelphia, and the fifth graduating class for the accelerator overall. (DreamIt expanded to New York this year, too). This year’s group is notable for featuring several minority-led startups thanks to a collaboration with Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corporation, as part of its Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP).
MEAP is the first initiative from the $20 million fund created by Comcast as a part of the acquisition of NBC Universal. The fund will also be used to invest in other minority-led startups and initiatives outside of DreamIt in the future. With Comcast’s participation, DreamIt’s budget for this group was increased by $350,000.
The five MEAP companies received funding from Comcast while DreamIt funded the other startups. However, all companies received the same direct funding of $5,000 per startup, plus $5,000 extra per founder (up to $25,000 total). Comcast also sponsored some of the standard costs of the accelerator on behalf of the five companies in order to assist with the necessary additional resources (more space, more desks, supplies, venue, etc.) The MEAP companies, though, had special access to Comcast resources, including PR experts, executives and others in various Comcast divisions with appropriate industry knowledge or connections.
This year’s class of fourteen includes Ph.D’s and J.D.’s from Yale, Stanford and U.T. as well as dropouts from Duke, Georgetown and the Wharton School at Pennsylvania. Founders include those who have worked at Yahoo, Intel, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Hilary for President. There are even folks hailing from as far away as Taiwan, Lebanon and Uganda.
The five selected MEAP startups are ElectNext, Kwelia, MetaLayer, ThaTrunk and Qwite, whose owners are African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian. (Full descriptions are below).
And now, the graduating class:
CloudMine is a platform that provides a set of RESTful APIs for mobile app developers, allowing them to quickly create back-end solutions for their apps. Specifically, the startup is offering schema-free data structure storage, user account creation and management, and server-side business logic for computations that are too complex or data-intensive to run on a mobile device. Cloudmine launched into beta in October.
ClrTouch allows publishers, agencies and ad networks to create, traffic, serve and track “touch-driven” rich media advertising on tablets. By leveraging the ClrTouch advertising technology, publishers and ad networks can drive a higher CPM by offering premium ad formats tailored for tablet web browsers. The ClrTouch ad server and ad builder are currently in development.
ElectNext is like an eHarmony for voters as it matches voters with the political candidates who best reflect their values. The site has you rank the issues and answer quizes in order to match your beliefs to specific candidates in the current election. ElectNext launched in November.
Flirq is an early-stage startup that wants to shift the perception of online dating from “sketchy and creepy” to “fun and flirty.” To do so, it puts women strictly in control of their privacy while offering them the support of their friends when looking for a date. Guys, however, must win over the girl in order to “unlock” her full profile and to interact freely (ah, the thrill of the chase!).
Grassroots Unwired is offering the direct sales industry an integrated SaaS platform that combines a mapping system, mobile application and web portal that run in conjunction with a GPS-enabled mobile device for tracking, reporting and analytics – all in real-time. Clients can use the tools to plan, execute, and analyze their person-to-person campaigns. In the first vertical it went after – political campaigns – the startup generated $300,000 in revenue (to-date) and has retained 100% of its customers. The company is now adding new customers in anticipation of the 2012 election cycle and is in talks with some of the largest direct sales companies and non-profits in the country.
Kwelia is a new service for landlords or those managing apartment complexes which compiles a database of rental real estate market data, and uses a proprietary model to crunch the numbers. The result is real-time and user-friendly analysis on critical market assumptions. Renters can also use the service to determine the current market value of an apartment.
MetaLayer wants to fight information overload and make sense out of big data by improving how people analyze images and text. Its products take streams of text or images and add structured, relational, temporal, and geospatial metadata. Users can visually summarize information and prioritize relevant content with the service’s Dashboard.
Qwite is a customer feedback service that works over mobile. It helps businesses deliver content to nearby smartphones, including customer surveys, incentives and other content that enhances the business’ brand. Businesses can use Qwite to increase customer retention rates, reward loyal customers and manage other customer-facing aspects of their business.
SnipSnap is the first mobile app that allows anyone to clip a printed coupon onto their smartphone. Users just snap a picture of the offer (whether from a free-standing insert, direct-mail piece, newspaper, etc.) and the app recognizes all the printed text, images, and barcodes. Once scanned, a user can redeem the coupon, as well as receive expiration-date notifications and in-store reminders.
Spling is a new service for sharing and discovering links. Users can share any link with anyone, while also creating an online repository where they can store and index their favorites. Spling launched this week, backed by a $400K Series A.
SupplyHog wants to bring the construction industry online by providing contractors, project owners, and building suppliers a one-stop-shop to manage projects and list, quote, and purchase building materials.
ThaTrunk is a mobile app that uses your location to distribute multimedia files with the push of a button. The app creates a “dynamic proximity network” which grows and shrinks with the number of other ThaTrunk mobile app users near you. Creative publishers, like authors, speakers, musicians and more, can use ThaTrunk at expos, conferences and concerts to reach their audience. Files are distributed from the cloud to nearby users who can then view them and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
UX Flip is focused on developing a better mobile app experience. The company is building two products: FeedbackTrail, a market-ready tool for developers to communicate in-app with their users, and a platform for direct UI management. Developers will be able to personalize, customize, and perform multivariate testing on their apps without having to re-release them through the app store.
Correction: Can’t count. There are 14 startups, not 15. Actually, there used to be 15 startups. The missing team dropped out and is in another accelerator in Silicon Valley. See the announcement here to find one which one.
DreamIt Ventures is a venture capital firm specializing in incubation and seed investments. The firm seeks to invest between $10,000 and $30,000 in each company. The organization was founded by Mr. David Bookspan, Mr. Michael Levinson, and Mr. Steven D. Welch and is based in the United States.