Launch Pad Ignition, the first tech incubator to make its home in the Big Easy, today officially unveiled the seven companies that participated in its second annual session.
The accelerator’s 12-week program began the second week of February and culminated yesterday with its own New Orleans rendition of the patented “Demo Day,” appropriately called “Launch Fest,” which we’ve been told is “Jazz Fest plus startups, on steroids.” Launch Pad’s model is a bit different than that of the traditional accelerator, in that Co-founder Chris Schultz tells us it’s geared towards building traction, not offering big early funding.
It’s actually a bit of a spin on Founder Institute’s approach. Launch Pad has done away with the “fixed funding” model and instead chooses to engage startups on more flexible terms that “don’t impact their valuation.” The accelerator seeks to offer value from its mentor network, which includes investors, executives, and founders of Particle Code, Microsoft, Aol Ventures, BetterWorks, Ning, Whole Foods, Skillshare, Lerer Ventures, AudioSocket, etc., as well as a lean startup curriculum, and connections to New York and Silicon Valley.
Rather than putting up capital up front in exchange for equity, Launch Pad offers founding teams a 3 percent stock warrant grant with 1 percent of that going into a “founder’s collective” so that each company has a shared stake in other members of its class. The team and mentors then follow that up by actively fundraising for the companies at the end of the program, at Launch Fest and beyond.
In relation to Jazz Fest, the accelerator actually does host its demo day right before the famed festival begins, so that investors have reason to visit New Orleans, and it gives startups a chance to blow off some steam, New Orleans-style.
Of course, some people may be rolling their eyes, calling this another example of a growing accelerator bubble. Or maybe blubble. But given New Orleans’ recent history, building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem has special value to a city that’s struggled to get back on its feet. The accelerator recently hosted an “Angel 101″ lunch, led by 500 Startups’ Paul Singh, who is on a mission to familiarize angels with early-stage tech investing in New Orleans, the idea being that seeding local angels with national early-stage capital will be the key to driving deals in New Orleans.
Dan Parham, the founder of Neighborland, which just raised $1.2M from local and national investors, has also been talking to startups about the value of incubating a company in New Orleans and remaining engaged, even as he builds his company in San Francisco.
Launch Pad’s demo days are increasingly becoming attractions to investors, as more than 60 angels and VCs showed up at this year’s event, including those from Union Square, 500 Startups, and True Ventures. And apparently, it’s more than just for show or for charity, as local venture firm Abstraction Ventures provided seed funding for three of the seven companies. While one more is announcing a separate seed round, and VoteIt, has already raised an $800K round. (Read our coverage here.)
Today, six of Launch Pad’s seven companies launched products in beta, and Kinobi, the odd-man-out, plans to launch within 90 days. The accelerator is attempting to go for the “stage agnostic” approach, offering its services to both very early-stage companies as well as those that are a little further along. VoteIt being a good example of the latter.
For more, check out Launch Pag Ignition at home here. Without further ado, here’s a brief, lightly edited intro to the seven companies:
Red Ticket Games is a social gaming company that is attempting to replicate the experience of family game night. Its launch title Expert Trivia, which debuted on the App Store today, is designed to do for Trivial Pursuit what Words with Friends did for Scrabble, and Draw Something did for Pictionary. Participants invite a group of friends to play a game around a topic they all have fun competing around. The secret sauce is that this interaction will help develop an inventory of trivia questions on a wide variety of topics that the company then plans to monetize.
Lawyerfy is building a CRM solution for lawyers. The key value proposition and differentiation for the startup’s product is that it bills on a per-case basis so that lawyers don’t have to shoulder the costs themselves, they can add it to what they charge clients. In turn, for clients, it adds a significant boost in the level of transparency that typically sucks between lawyers and their clients. Plus, it keeps their lawyers more organized, as it’s easy to use, not unlike a better Basecamp with Gaant charts. Lawerfy’s founders hail from Silicon Valley.
Giftmeo is a group gifting app that leverages the comment thread that collects around people’s birthdays on their Facebook profiles to shift from gifts of the virtual variety to actual gift cards. In other words, real gifts, so that instead of buying $50 worth of beer icons and roses, groups of people can all pitch in to buy their friends and loved ones a $50 Amazon gift card. While gift cards are a good place to start, hopefully they’re expanding beyond, because buying your mom or your girlfriend, for example, a gift card for their birthday will likely put you in the dog house.
VoteIt is a service that helps groups make all kinds of decisions with realtime, social voting tools. These decisions can revolve around everything from helping doctors get a more efficient form of intercommunication and pulse-taking to giving a company the ability to poll its users when deciding on a logo. VoteIt wants to pick up where Facebook and Twitter left off in their ability to mobilize civil engagement during events, while turning that engagement into action.
Kinobi went from winning Startup Weekend EDU in New York based on its learning platform to a demo-able product built on the Microsoft Kinect platform yet runs in any browser. Kinobi’s new app provides motion capture feedback via Kinect so anyone can teach physical interaction movements. Kinobi aims to be a platform by which physical trainers, for example, can teach and educate students, measuring their success through gestural feedback from Kinect. Kinobi is still in stealth, but is planning to launch its beta in the next few months.
Unawkward is providing social introductions in ways that — you guessed it — aren’t awkward. When people move to new cities or are traveling for business or conventions, they often want to meet new people or go to events but don’t know where to find people with similar interests. Unawkward connects people around fun activities.
Connect for a Cause is an application that allows people to auction off access to people of note and more to benefit charities. Not unlike this charity auction for blood cancer TechCrunch recently covered, for example. Imagine if Brad Feld were traveling to New Orleans and could log in with twitter and tweet out “who wants to go to lunch today?” and would then go out lunch with the highest bidder with the proceeds of the auction going to Brad’s charity of choice. That’s Connect for a Cause in a nutshell.