NFX Guild just introduced 13 buzzy young companies to investors

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The young Bay Area accelerator NFX Guild hosted its third “demo day” yesterday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and the attendees were a veritable who’s who of venture and angel investing.

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that roughly 200 top investors were sitting elbow to elbow to see the presenting companies. NFX Guild prides itself on being different that most accelerators in numerous ways, including that there’s no publicly available application process; startups are instead referred to NFX “scouts,” who happen to mostly be VCs. The last class, which passed through the program earlier this year, saw referrals from 42 people; this class involved 68 scouts.

NFX was also founded by a trio of highly regarded entrepreneur-operators — James Currier, Stan Chudnovsky and Gigi Levy Weiss — who provide NFX companies with $120,000, along with 30 hours of programming, mentoring and investor introductions. NFX in turn gets 7 percent of their company. (If the company has already raised more than $750,000, NFX asks for 5 percent.)

Investors further seem drawn to NFX because its startups and teachings center around a narrow idea with very broad implications: the importance of network effects, or when a product or service becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it.

As far as NFX is concerned, any company, at any stage, can “add” network effects to multiply the value of their company. And Brian O’Malley of Accel Partners, who was in the audience yesterday, suggested afterward that he agrees. “Network effects aren’t just for social applications. We’re seeing this across our portfolio, but it was highlighted in today’s demo day that blockchain, SaaS, labor markets and more can benefit from core network effects embedded in product.”

NFX-backed companies like the home remodeling and design platform Houzz and the event planning platform Honeybook are “nailing this model,” added another attendee, Jeff Richards of GGV Capital, saying, “We as a firm are betting big on this trend as well.

Herewith, the companies that presented yesterday:


Airbanq

Tagline: Digital banking for the underserved 40 percent

Description: This two-year-old company has developed a check-cashing application that it says gives customers access, for the first time, to quality, fairly priced, mobile financial services.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Green Dot, NetSpend, RushCard, One Financial

Employees: 18

Capital raised: $3.35 million from First Round Capital, Floodgate, Cowboy Ventures, Bee Partners, The Sand Hill Angels and NFX Guild

Metrics: The company says that it has figured out a way to 4X standard industry metrics

Team: Leonardo Shapiro (co-founder and CEO) Endeavor entrepreneur, 15 years of experience in emerging payments, Chris Boas (co-founder and COO) pioneer of agent banking in Latin America and Asia, Ruth Ann Gonzalez (former head of North America marketing at The Gap) and Bill Neil (15 years of experience on field operations).


Cavalry

Tagline: Expand your sales funnel

Description: Cavalry helps your sales team exceed quotas with intelligent software and on-demand sales development reps who, among other things, craft email pitches to prospective clients, amplifying the number of people a Cavalry’s customer can reach in a day’s time.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Outreach.io, LeadGenius, SalesLoft

Employees: 4

Capital raised: $220,000 in total from NFX Guild.

Metrics: 17 Customers, 45 sales development reps who are working on demand; claims response rates of 4x the industry average in one-tenth the time.

Team: Two of the founding members worked together at the prospecting company Ecquire.comEcquire.comEcquire.com, which they grew to 650 paying enterprises in the B2B SaaS market. Two other founders are a data scientist and a UI/UX Director that recently organized a 75 person burning man camp.


GoldenKey

Tagline: No-commission residential real estate network that works for everyone.

Description: GoldenKey offers unbundled, no commission, on-demand, residential real estate. Buyers and sellers pay for the services they need, not the ones they don’t. Agents get paid for the work they do when they do it. The company views the 1.8 million real estate sales agent in the U.S. as an underutilized on-demand workforce that often has to wait weeks if not months to be paid; in its model, customers pay as they go (to have their home priced, have their home shown, etc.).

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: RedFin

Employees: 13

Capital raised: $3.4 million

Metrics: 1,600 agents in 47 states, executed transactions in 22 states, claims to have already saved home buyers/sellers $500,000.

Team: CEO is a former Green Beret who says he has sold $200 million of real estate in his career.


HackerBay

Tagline: Your on-demand software engineering team

Description: Hackerbay is a network of the world’s fastest software hackers and product managers that provides on-demand development.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Gigster

Employees: 6

Capital raised: $220,000 from NFX Guild

Metrics: 250-plus pro hackers in its network; says it’s profitable

Team: Founders of HackEvents, the world’s leading location for hackers to find hackathons. Hackathon winners themselves: Facebook, NASA, SAP, etc.


Headnote

Tagline: The first network for collaborative legal teams

Description: Headnote is building a network of lawyers and legal professionals and connecting them across firms, devices and time zones as the new system of record for today’s legal industry. With Headnote, an attorney can manage their firm more efficiently while coordinating everyone they work with from clients to colleagues to vendors. This is a big deal and big opportunity, argues the company, because 75 percent of the nation’s attorneys work at firms of 20 people or fewer and “they’re getting killed by non-billable work ” because they don’t have the support staff that big firms enjoy.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Clio, MyCase, Practice Panther

Employees: 8

Capital raised: $370,000 pre-seed from investors, including NFX Guild.

Metrics: Headnote is currently in private beta with 20 attorneys representing more than $10 million in annual bookings; claims it has a waitlist of more than 500 customers.

Team: Sarah Schaaf, founder and CEO, was most recently an attorney at Google and a litigator defending Fortune 500 companies. Co-founders Chrissy Shea and Thornton Schaaf serve as heads of marketing and inside sales with more than 20 years of relevant experience at companies including InMobi, Quantcast and Macy’s. Headnote’s CTO leads a team of 5 engineers with experience building fintech, SaaS, and network products at companies that include TripIt, Debitize, APT and Google.


Leade.rs

Tagline: The marketplace for speakers and thought leaders

Description: Leade.rs is a speaker and event marketplace that identifies new trends and the intriguing people behind them. (Need someone to talk bots at your upcoming conference? Leade.rs is the place to find that talent, it says.) It’s catering to corporate event professionals, press, and brands.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Competitors: Orate, eSpeakers

Employees: 10

Capital raised: $3.5M from 50 angels including Eric Schmidt and Reid Hoffman.

Metrics:

Team: Loic LeMeur, CEO. Formerly the founder and CEO of LeWeb, the tech conference in Paris.


Missionmark

Tagline: The network for government contractors

Description: There are 504,885 active Federal contractors competing for 4.3 million service contracts worth over $439 billion awarded annually. It’s still done on paper and with old-fashioned networking; Missionmark is meanwhile helping government contractors find, bid, and manage more work in this market using modern software and big data.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Deltek, ePipeline, Govini

Employees: 3

Capital raised: Undisclosed

Metrics: In closed beta.

Team: Dan Katz, co-founder and CEO, was formerly EIR at Atomic Labs, and previously was involved with product at Bunchball and Campusfood.com (2011 GrubHub merger). Travis Russi, co-founder and CTO, is a former government contractor and full-stack developer. He has worked on more than $300 million in winning federal contract proposals.


Motivate

Tagline: Automated finance advisor for everyone else

Description: Motivate is an automated financial advisor, but it’s not trying to grow your wealth; it’s trying to help American manage debt and make smarter spending decisions. The company is focusing first on helping customers with their mortgage payments and plans to get into student loans, credit cards, and other types of debt afterward.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: CreditKarma, Acorns

Capital raised: $1.5 Million

Metrics: 

Team: CEO Tom Patterson is a serial entrepreneur whose been backed in the past by Mayfield, Bessemer, and IDG. CTO Nir Yeffet was formerly EVP Technology at Adap.tv (acquired by AOL).


Real Labs

Tagline: In stealth and building the next big thing in social.

Description:  Two ex-Facebook engineers creating the next generation of networked social products. This startup has something to do with video, though the founders really didn’t reveal much beyond that. (All they had to say was “former Facebook engineers” and everyone’s ears perked up.)

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube

Employees: 2

Capital raised: $220,000 from NFX Guild

Metrics: New social app, growing at 20% daily.

Team: Tim Lenardo, CEO, is a former Instagram engineer. He also created Boomerang from Instagram and built the 14 most recent Instagram filters. JJ Maxwell, COO, is a former Facebook data scientist who helped grow Facebook Messenger from 200 million to more than 1 billion monthly active users.

(Jim Scheinman of Maven Ventures was intrigued with this one, saying his team would “probably be meeting with them to learn more.” Richards of GGV Capital also took an interest. As investors in the video social network Musical.ly, which has exploded, GGV thinks we’re “in the first inning on mobile/social/video,” says Richards.)


Splacer

Tagline: Make the most of your venue

Description: Splacer is a venue management platform and marketplace, connecting space owners with their ideal clients to more efficiently grow their business.

Location: New York City

Competitors: Peerspace, TripleSeat, VenueBook

Employees: 23

Capital raised: $7.3 million

Metrics: There are 650 spaces on its marketplace platform; and it has seen more than 1,000 events and $1 million in GMV transacted on it in during the last 12 months.

Team: Founding team says it has 43 years of experience building and scaling technology businesses and 30 years of experience in architecture. Adi Biran (Former Owner of Adi B Architects), Lihi Gerstner (Former Partner, Gerstner Architects), Maria Molland Selby (Former Chief European Officer, Fab; CEO Advisor, eBay), Lior Ash (Former COO of MySupermarket).


Synereo

Tagline: A new, decentralized economy

Description: Synereo is building a scalable Blockchain to allow decentralized applications to be built on it and says to think of it as the Android of the decentralized economy. Synereo’s market comprises the billions dependent on centralized app silos that make up the majority of how people experience the Internet today, plus the many applications that it says will newly be possible on its platform.

Location: SF Bay Area and distributed

Competitors:

Employees: 20

Capital raised: The company says its internal currency worth over $100M

Metrics:

Team: CEO and co-Founder Dor Konforty is Israeli, has a masters in neurobiology, graduated from the IT unit of the Israeli Air Force, and has lived and breathed crypto since 2011, he says. Co-founder and Chief Science Officer Greg Meredith is well-known in the crypto community.

(Venture capitalist Ashmeet Sidana, who founded Engineering Capital a couple of years ago, liked this one, he told us afterward. “I thought the approach was clever, based on nice technical insight and could have genuine network effects. Equally importantly I could also see value for the very first user or customer of their platform. It’s unusual to see such a technical idea presented in a demo day format.”)


TravelJoy

Tagline: Reinventing the travel industry as a network starting with new booking and payments system for the 100,000 travel agents in the US.

Description: TravelJoy says it wants to move the travel industry from a series of directories and data silos into a modern network, starting with modern software tools to help the 100,000 travel agents in the U.S. to win more business and manage their network of clients and suppliers.

Location: San Francisco

Competitors: ClientBase, VacationCRM

Employees: 3

Capital raised: Undisclosed

Metrics: In a private beta last month, TravelJoy says it on-boarded 22 travel agents; it says, too, that it has more than 300 agents on its waitlist.

Team: The team is led by Dayo Esho (CEO) and Chris Kline (CTO), who worked together for nine years prior including as part of the founding team at LiveRamp (acquired by Acxiom in 2014). The company’s third co-founder, Adriana Diakite, is a Stanford-educated software engineer who has worked at Google, Amazon A9, Palantir, and Pivotal Labs.


Trellis

Tagline: Reveal the real professional network that’s buried in your email and get stuff done.

Description: Trellis is building a self-generating, constantly updated professional network by analyzing tens of millions of emails to graph relationship strength and expertise across a network.

Location: Redwood City

Competitors: LinkedIn, email lists

Employees: 5

Capital raised: Undisclosed amount from Eric Chen, Kevin Hartz, David Bonderman, Steve Ciesinski, IGSB, Three Fish Capital and NFX Guild.

Metrics: Trellis has been growing over 75 percent per week and says that more than 17,000 people have registered and are granting the company full Gmail access. As a result, says Trellis, it has already mapped a network of more than two million people.

Team: T.J. Duane, CEO, got an MBA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard and a BS from Cornell; Trellis is his third company.

(This one won Richards’s vote for “most needed.”  As he noted after the show, “Everyone is hoping a next-gen LinkedIn is right around the corner, because the current platform has become crowded and not as useful as it used to be;  there’s a huge opportunity for a great team to create a mobile-first, cloud-first product that really hones in on creating value from the personal network versus just ‘tracking’ the network as LinkedIn primarily does today.” The obvious downside, he added, are that many companies are going after this space.)