Editor’s note: The following on-the-ground report comes from Don Dodge, who blogs at The Next Big Thing and is a business development executive for Microsoft. He is in Boulder, Colorado today attending TechStars demo day. Much like Y Combinator (which had its own demo day last week) and LaunchBox (which also had a recent demo day), TechStars is a startup incubator that selects 10 teams and provides funding of about $15,000 per team, as well as free office space, operational support, and mentoring from former entrepreneurs and business leaders.
This is the second year for TechStars, and they have already had an acquisition. SocialThing was recently acquired by AOL. The teams presented today to about 100 VCs and Angel investors for the first time. These companies are three to six months old and have two or three founder employees. Here are Don’s notes on each of the ten startups to present at TechStars today.
Gyminee -A fitness social network for detailed tracking, online accountability, and motivation. With Gyminee, you can find workout programs and track your progress, track your food and nutrition, and set goals for whatever is important to you. On the social side of things, you can find GymBuddies to keep you accountable towards your goals and participate in fitness challenges. They already have over 35,000 users and over 1.2M page views. On the nutrition side they have a database of 50,000 food items complete with nutritional information that you would find on the label. You can track your diet, calories, and nutritional value. Freemium business model. Free service where you can upgrade to premium services for $5 per month. Looking to raise $300K in seed funding.
Ignighter – Wish dating could be as fun and easy as going out with your friends? Ignighter is group to group dating. Meet people the way you do in real life…like you did in college. Ignighter is about hooking you and your friends up with someone else and their friends. They believe group socializing is safer and less intimidating than one to one blind dating, and leads to personal dates. Ignighter has elements of Facebook for groups and Match.com for dates. They have an iPhone app that uses GPS to find other groups close to your current location. They have over 10,000 registered users. Business model; premium services like better search placement, and of course advertising. Looking to raise $300K.
Peoples Software – WhozAround? from People’s Software takes the pain out of making plans with your friends with planning and scheduling tools that plug right into your Facebook account, your contact list, or your mobile phone directory. Lightweight and location-aware, WhozAround sorts your friends, makes plans with one click, and outputs your events into a clean feed that can go right to your calendar, email, or your phone.
Peoples Software founders are Susan Mernit formerly a VP at Yahoo and AOL, and Lisa Williams, a founder of several companies, and formerly at Boston.com. It is great to see two women founding a cool new startup. Business model; locally targeted advertising. They believe they can get $7 to$10 CPM rates because of the local targeting, and by partnering with regional media companies. They are seeking $225K in seed funding.
Devver – Takes the tools that developers already use on their desktops and turns them into cloud-based services. Currently focused on Ruby tools and testing suites. Strong emphasis on test suites. They will add PHP, Python, and Java later. They will also have an open API so that developers can add other languages.
By putting developer tools in the cloud, they can execute them more quickly, reduce setup and configuration time, enable easy scheduling, display rich reports, and make it simple to share data between team members. The dev tools and environment is set up once on a cloud based server, then team members can be added quickly and have all the same tools, projects, and code.
Business model; subscription fee of $100 per developer per month. Sales channel – seems to be word of mouth through the Ruby development community. Seeking $200K in seed funding.
The Highway Girl
The Highway Girl – is a traveling music show for the digital age. Hosted by singer songwriter Samantha Murphy, the show educates artists on how to manage their careers in the digital age while also giving fans a true behind the scenes look inside the life of a singer / songwriter on tour. It is initially based on Samantha Murphy, but soon will include other artists. TheHighwayGirl.com will sell exclusive content from the artists they feature, as well as act as a liaison between artist and fan on non-traditional transactions that connect them.
Samantha delivered one of the most unusual startup pitches I have seen. She sang a song about raising money and building a business. Wow! Samantha is an incredibly talented singer /songwriter. Business model; Exclusive content, tours, merchandise, and a traveling music tour called The Highway Girls. Also partnering with TopSpin. Seeking $500K in seed funding.
Application Experts provides Software as a Service (SaaS) to venture capital and private equity fund managers and to the pensions, endowments and other parties that invest in venture capital and private equity. Based in Denver, Boston, and Chicago. The founders were in private equity firms prior to founding the company.
The idea is to build a social network of private equity and venture capital investors to share best practices and information. They also provide a deal-tracking dashboard to help manage the pipeline of investment deals in progress.
Their target audience has plenty of money and is willing to pay. They charge $3k per person with a minimum of $15K.
Occipital – Photography has evolved over the years, but the ways we interact with digital photos are still decidedly primitive. Occipital is using artificial intelligence to organize your photo stream, enabling vivid recollection with groundbreaking visualizations.
They can stitch photos together into a panorama, automatically label and tag photos, and construct 3D scenes from your photos. They can zoom in, fly over, step inside buildings…all based on simple photos stitched together into a 3D presentation. They find objects in your photos and link them to the same or similar objects in other photos and stitch them together. This is hard to explain with words, but the visual demo was amazing.
BuyPlayWin.com – Combines online shopping with tournament games. Buy products, play games, win a refund for the product. Every shopper gets a chance to win full refunds for everything they purchase by playing fun games against other shoppers. For example, buy a $120 college text book. Compete with six other people who are also buying the book. Win the game and you get the book for free. They use the profit margin in the product to pay for the winners purchase. If a product has a 33% profit margin they need three players to break even. With 10 purchasers they make a very nice profit. They are seeking $400K in seed funding.
Foodzie – An online marketplace where consumers can discover and buy food directly from small artisan producers. The Foodzie technology makes it simple for small producers to sell their products online and aggregate all these products within a marketplace that makes it easy for “foodies” to discover the very best food. They focus on gourmet foods and organic health foods. These are high-end and high-margin products. Foodzie takes a 20% commission on every sale. Traditional retailers take 50% margin, while a distributor takes another 10%. The food supplier only ends up with 40%. So, with Foodzie the producers get to keep 80% of each sale. They are seeking $350K in seed funding.
Travelfli -Helps frequent flyers maximize the full potential of their loyalty programs and discover the value in this hidden currency. They help users manage their award programs in one centralized and secure place, find ways to get free travel using their miles, and book award travel online. TravelFli allows you to aggregate frequent flyer miles and hotel points from family members and keep track of all the various rewards programs. They help you keep track of when miles expire, or when there are special promotional programs for your miles.
There are over 120M people in frequent flyer programs, and trillions of frequent flyer miles that never get used. There are 17M elite flyers that account for 43% of all flights. These elite flyers are a very lucrative market for airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, etc.
Business model; commissions on all sales. Advertising – CPMs for travel are very high. They will also sell aggregate data on flights, hotels, and car rentals. They are seeking $500K in seed funding.