Montreal-based accelerator FounderFuel held its Demo Day for its Summer 2013 cohort of startups today, and the nine companies taking part all offered pretty impressive pitches. Three companies stood out from the crowd, however, and earned my pick for highlights of the show. Some are familiar names who have made big changes and expanded their vision, and some are newcomers going after markets where the opportunity and timing are just right.
The Transit App
The Transit App, presented by co-founder Sam Vermette, got a big boost when Apple ditched transit directions from its iOS default maps app. But it’s gone beyond just filling a gap left behind by the Mac maker, and now offers some of the most accurate real-time transit data available. When you boot up the app, it instantly shows you the nearest transit spots and also the expected times before a bus or train will arrive at each. Vernette said that that’s how their app differentiates itself from others, and from transit features built into things like Google Maps, since The Transit App was built from the ground up with the commuter at the forefront.
But the big picture that The Transit App painted wasn’t about helping commuters find their way around on a daily basis; it was about informing the future of urban development. 80 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, Vermette said, and that’s only growing. Cities are struggling to cope as-is, and will be looking for ways to build out their infrastructure in better and better ways. They’ll need data for that, and data is exactly what The Transit App is collecting.
They currently gather around 400,000 daily data points, which help identify issues like underserved areas, average wait times, the most popular routes and unnecessary stops. In exchange for their participation and data sharing, The Transit App can help cities build better public transportation that truly meets the needs of urban residents. And that kind of help should be very valuable indeed.
Over the past year, big companies like Twitter and Facebook have introduced two-factor authentication, which pairs a traditional online password with a unique, randomly generated code supplied by a second device, which can now be a mobile app tied to a specific smartphone. The need for this has essentially been driven by security breaches, which are becoming all too common. Swift Identity co-founder Rob Masse explained that what Swift Identity wants to provide is two factor authentication for everyone.
Not all companies can currently afford to implement two factor because while it’s cheaper than it used to be thanks to the advent of mobile phones and apps, it still requires a lot of developer time and talent to build. Swift Identity offers it up with 10 lines of code to install, and it’s completely free; premium services including geolocation, SMS and advanced reporting help the company drive revenue. The startup has spent two years in stealth mode building Swift Identity, and launched it today to its first group of private beta customers.
Another amazing thing that Swift Identity can do is offer single sign-on, which would take a lot of the additional sting out of two-factor in terms of consumer or user inconvenience. Since Swift Identity envisions itself becoming the service layer enabling two-factor on products around the web, a user could authenticate once and then have that authentication apply to other sites also using Swift Identity for the remainder of their browsing session; it’s still secure, but it’s also less onerous for users.
Enabling social sign-on for websites is a big win, since it provides them access to a whole host of great new user data, enables virality, gives users a convenient way to use a login they already know and trust, and more. But it’s not all that simple to implement, and managing the various API changes that companies like Twitter consistently put out adds up to a lot of developer hours, which in turn adds up to significant spend. A process that would’ve taken 320 hours according to LoginRadius co-founder Rakesh Soni takes 2 hours with LoginRadius, which gathers 30 social network sign-in APIs into one.
The startup employs its own team of developers, which includes around a dozen engineers located in offices in both Canada and India, to manage API changes coming from the big companies. It even has the support of some key partners like Amazon, Mozilla and Google+ who provide early access to API changes before they go live, so that LoginRadius’ customers get to be ready for changes before they go live.
LoginRadius did $20,000 in monthly revenue in June, which was a 100 percent increase over its previous month. It is already active on 70,000 websites today, with 10,000 new sign-ups coming on every month at this stage. All those sites provided 70 million data points to LoginRadius, too, which means they can leverage all that data to determine things like customer intent and make money from that side of the business, too.
All the other companies on display, which included Now In Store, Instagrad, Groove, Dashbook and CrowdMedia were impressive, too, but those three stood out because of their data-driven approaches that offer opportunities to build businesses that not only meet big apparent needs in the market, but also offer opportunities to help identify the next big trends in their respective markets, too.