Hot, new Washington D.C. tech accelerator known as The Fort is debuting its inaugural class of startups today. The organization grew out the efforts from early stage VC firm Fortify Ventures LLC, also known as Fortify.vc (that’s its URL, too), which had previously invested in nearly dozen D.C.-area tech companies.
Over the past 9 months, The Fort’s co-founders, Jonathon Perrelli and Carla Valdes, have been busy trying to spark innovation in the nation’s capital. They set up the fund, invested in group of startups, created the accelerator, hosted a pitch competition called “Distilled Intelligence” which handed out $25K to winners, and selected a dozen more startups for The Fort’s first program.
“D.C. is not a place where people are always working together,” says Perrelli of the group’s efforts, “but now there is this uprising. People are trying to build something here.”
He notes that the area, despite being the center of government where important policy decisions are made, has been slow to join in the burgeoning tech scene. But things have been changing. With The Fort, the hope is to provide a path to get D.C. area startups off the ground.
The program, which gives founders anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 in seed capital, was lured to the area from nearby Arlington thanks to a $100,000 grant from D.C. Mayor Vicent Gray. Now set up in offices on K Street two blocks from The White House, the organization its opening its doors to 12 new companies who will spend 6 months in its program.
As with most accelerators, The Fort will also provide coaching, mentorship, as well as a number of discounted and free services, including software deals, hosting, legal and accounting assistance, and even some regional and local perks like discounts on bike and car-sharing programs in the area.
Perrelli tells us too, that the program has been built to meet the unique needs of the D.C. area. The region has a lot of government contracts, obviously, but also sees travel and tourism and cybersecurity as key verticals to attack.
“We’re seconds away from the most powerful people in the country,” he says. “We’re having an impact in those areas,” says Perrelli, “and so are our companies.”
Speaking of the companies, here’s the first class:
CoFoundersLab is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs launch new businesses by helping them overcome the first challenge in launching a startup – finding the perfect co-founder. It’s eHarmony for entrepreneurs. The service is similar to FounderDating, but serves different geographic markets.
Feastie wants to make it easier and more affordable for people to cook healthy, tasty, home-cooked meals. The site offers a recipe engine that uses natural language processing to extract ingredient information from recipe webpages,and it provides nutritional information, shopping lists, and coupons matching.
Forensic Innovations, Inc., which already sells a File Investigator Engine for document recovery, backup, management, security and more, aims to satisfy the need to efficiently dig through data and produce the nuggets of information hidden in today’s computers. The company is focused on building new technologies to compliment its already popular File Investigator and File Expander products.
Hinge wants to help you expand your social graph on Facebook. It finds and matches you with the friends of friends you’ll love. All you do is answer questions about your current Facebook friends: What are they like? Which ones are your type? Hinge then learns your tastes and suggests up to five compatible friends of friends per day.
Klaggle is Klout for reviews and opinion based content. With its ReviewRite product, Klaggle allows consumers to write, share and discover trustworthy reviews on anything with their friends. It also lets businesses leverage the power of reviews more effectively through its patent pending analytical and search technology that scores and indexes the quality, credibility and resonance of any type of written content.
Lemur IMS is an Inventory Management System for big box retailers that connects local customers to local slow moving inventory. This system gives the customer a personal offer on an item they are seeking, and also collects market, retail, customer and community data to optimize the results per location. Using various methods of real-time communication, Lemur creates a sense of urgency and a call to action that leads to more sales.
MonthsOf.Me is home to visual stories about life’s moments where members easily organize their digital life, share their stories and collaborate on content. Members create visual stories using media like pictures, text, and videos in order to share moments around specific topics such as births, ballgames, weddings, concerts, and events.
NextGame aims to enhance people’s active lives by connecting individuals and groups to play and participate in the sports and activities they love. Users can search for new places to play, find and organize games and activities, and share those activities with friends. NextGame will bring people, locations, retailers, and event organizers together, and will be the only platform people need to manage their active lives.
Saylo is a mobile app that lets you create and join location-relevant conversations, allowing you to communicate, one-to-many with the people around you. Like a hyper-local Twitter, Saylo allows for spontaneous interaction and engagement, especially with new people around you who you don’t even know.
Social Tables is a web-based event planning platform for large, seated events. The service offers a suite of planning tools, built for anyone from the DIY bride to the sophisticated corporate planner, in order to make the planning experience less stressful and more efficient.
Uppidy lets everyone save, search and share their text/sms messages. It works on all the major smart phone platforms. The company has thousands of users worldwide and millions of messages in dozens of languages. Uppidy lets everyone keep the conversations they created regardless of carrier, provider, cell phone or cloud service.
Venga (“Let’s go” in Italian”) is a guest management platform for restaurants. It integrates with a restaurant’s Point of Sale, captures all of the information on the bill (server, dishes, check amount etc.) and turns it into actionable insights for restaurants. Products include a restaurant-branded loyalty program, guest satisfaction and targeted marketing. Advisory Board includes Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn and Mike Isabella and Jose Andres’ Think Food Group’s CEO Rob Wilder.