Early-stage VC fund 500 Startups today held the first of several demo day events for the fifth batch of startups graduating from its accelerator program. It was a fun event, with 32 high-energy founders pitching their companies to a room full of investors and tech press.
All of the companies were compelling in their own ways, covering a wide range of technologies, geographies, and sectors — you can check out the full list right here. It was tough, but we narrowed down a list of some of our favorites.
In alphabetical order, here are the standouts we saw:
CompStak: Founded by former NYC real estate broker Michael Mandel, CompStak has built a platform that compiles crowdsourced information about all things commercial real estate. In particular, the site tracks what’s known as “comps,” which is industry-speak for comparable price rates on real estate leases for similarly sized and featured spaces. This information is valuable, but it’s also historically been nearly impossible to find — people who have this kind of data tend to keep it close to the chest, even while seeking it out from others. CompStak has created a platform where people can trade info they have with info they need, giving incentives to all sides. We’ve written about CompStak before, which you can check out here.
Cubie: Like a super lightweight and more fully featured Draw Something, Cubie is a mobile messaging app for both Android and iOS that lets people create and share drawings, photos, video, and voice messages inside a social chat client. It has become hugely popular, according to the founders, rising to the #1 social app spot in 16 countries, and amassing 5 million total downloads. The company has already attracted some hefty investor attention, with $1.1 million raised from a group of international investors.
Dealflicks: This company has a simple mission: To get more butts into movie seats. Up to 88 percent of movie theater seats end up empty, Dealflicks says, so it sells movie tickets and concessions for up to 60 percent off to make sure spots that would otherwise be vacant are filled with moviegoers. The company says it is now on track to have $5 million dollars in annual bookings flowing through its platform, and its app boosts online and mobile movie ticket sales by 40 percent. Filling last-minute vacancies by offering discounts is a strategy that has worked well for other apps such as Priceline and Hotel Tonight, so this could really be one to watch.
GazeMetrix – What if you were a brand marketer and you could take all user-generated photos and recognize when your logo or product showed up on Facebook, Intstagram or Twitter? That’s the kind of tool that Gaze Metrics provides, scanning photos posted to social networks and alerting brands when those photos start to go viral. The company is already working with more than 30 brands, and is sure to sign up plenty more as they learn about the technology.
iDreamBooks – When you want to find out what movie to watch, there’s Rotten Tomatoes to give you an idea of how good they are. For video games, there’s MetaCritic. But there’s no good universal guide for book ratings. Even Amazon’s ratings system is starting to lose its lustre, as they’re easily gamed by fake posts. Enter iDreamBooks, which seeks to be the Rotten Tomatoes of books. The startup was already chosen by the New York and San Francisco Public Library systems to provide aggregated professional ratings of books on their websites and is looking for more distribution.
Kickfolio: Typically, an app that’s in the pre-launch stage must be uploaded directly to a mobile device for trial purposes — this makes the process of testing a mobile app cumbersome, time-consuming, and often expensive for the app developer. Kickfolio has built a platform for developers to upload builds of their iOS mobile apps straight to the web where they can be more easily accessed for testing. Kickfolio’s platform uses HTML5, so it makes apps accessible to anyone with a web browser. Kickfolio echoes in some ways Pieceable, the startup recently acquired by Facebook — just one sign that it’s in a very exciting space. TechCrunch covered Kickfolio’s launch back in December, and you can read that right here.
Privy: This startup aims to “take the mystery out of local marketing” by making local advertising more efficient for small and medium sized businesses. Local merchants simply tell it how much they’re willing to spend and what their specials are, and Privy seamlessly does social and search advertising for the businesses. Customers bring in coupons on their phones to complete the loop, and the system tracks conversion rate and efficiency of the campaign, providing detailed analytics to the business. The company makes $3,000 per year on average per business, but typically helps them recoup those costs within three months.
SupplyHog: SupplyHog aims to reduce the amount of time that local contractors spend running around trying to source supplies for projects that they’re working on. Not only does the startup ensure that it can provide the supplies that are needed, without having to run around to various different home-improvement stores, but it can guarantee lower prices than those outlets. It does that by working with thousands of different local manufacturers and distributors around the country to find the lowest price while also ensuring that the materials needed are in stock. With a limited beta trial, the company has also had $130,000 in revenues, but more importantly — 100 percent of all the contractors who have used the site have come back to use it again so far.
WalletKit: With the rise of mobile payment systems like Apple’s Passbook, there’s a growing need to help businesses take advantage of these platforms. The problem is that it takes a team of designers and engineers to implement Passbook and other mobile wallet technologies. WalletKit takes the pain out of this process with a platform for quickly integrating with Passbook and other mobile wallet systems. We’ve written about WalletKit before, and you can check that out right here.
WayGo: We’ve written about WayGo before — it provides instant translations for Asian-language text into English on mobile phones. How cool is that? So cool, it makes our top 10 list. That’s how cool. It makes money by charging just $14.99 for unlimited usage. Which, frankly, is a steal for overseas travelers.