Here are some standouts from 500 Startups’ 22nd demo day

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Here are some standouts from 500 Startups’ 22nd demo day

500 Startups is in somewhat of a weird spot, given that Dave McClure resigned as a GP from 500 Startups in July this year after admitting to “multiple” advances toward women and being a “creep.” Since then, there’s been a specter over the firm’s program, especially as it begins its demo day and starts to roll into the following class.

That seemed truer today at the company’s 22nd Demo Day, with CEO Christine Tsai coming on stage to make some remarks about some of the changes the firm has started to make in the wake of what’s happened since.

“Back in August, I mentioned 500 aimed to be part of the solution when it comes to inclusion, diversity and addressing harassment,” Tsai said. “One really can’t be addressed without the other. Right off the bat, we held numerous frank, honest discussions within the team as well as launching surveys to reach a common understanding… and [to figure out] where the 500 culture is doing well and where we’re falling short. We came away with a lot of great learnings, and we’re gonna continue to monitor this on a regular basis.”

So, getting to the demo day: We’ve noted before that demo days can be very hectic, and it can be hard to get a good read on which companies are really the best ones with just a few minutes of information from one presentation. Still, some of them are indeed worth highlighting based on any number of factors like the idea behind the company, the problem they are solving, or the founding team.

That was true, again, at 500 Startups’ 22nd Demo Day today — so, here are a few that stood out to us throughout the several-hour marathon:

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Nextplay

Having a logical progression path for a career is probably one of the most important tools a company needs in order to hold onto its employees — and it’s one where a lot of companies fail.

So, as employees struggle to figure out what goals they should hit and how they should move forward, they’ll often end up finding opportunities outside of the company. Charu Sharma and her co-founder Nawar Nory started Nextplay to build tools that help companies give those employees mentorship and a healthy set of goals. The end product is called Ellen, an app which matches people up with mentors and helps them figure out how to feel good about their careers.

“Career development is an ill-defined path, it’s left up to the employees to identify their own goals and find their own mentors,” Sharma said. “Women suffer, minorities suffer, and introverts suffer.”

Sharma says that after using Ellen for 6 months, 25% more employees strongly recommend working for their company, and the company has hit $100,000 in revenue.

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Mobile Forms

Africa is one of the most important developing markets in the world, offering a massive opportunity for any company looking to expand — but gathering data on how to get started there is one of the biggest issues, says Mobile Forms CEO Tomi Ayorinde.

“Economies in Africa are experiencing double-digit growth, and that’s attracted the attention of companies all around the world,” Ayorinde said. “Companies are spending billions trying to understand the market, but for most of them, the market still looks like a black box.”

Companies define the requirements for the research they need and then send it over to Mobile Forms. Then, Mobile Forms will send off the request to a team of thousands of field agents, which will gather the information those companies need in order to make better decisions. Starting in Nigeria, the company said it has generated around $150,000 in revenue thus far.

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Fincheck

If you’ve ever had to do an expense report — well, it’s not really a fun experience. You’re probably cross-checking all those purchases against a Google calendar, your email, and plenty of other places all over the Internet.

That’s where Fincheck comes in, which looks to basically do the second half of that. By tapping multiple data sources, Fincheck in the end shows you a summary of your expenses to take away all the hours you’re probably spending in your expense software.

CEO Ruth Polachek says the company has processed more than 100,000 transactions in its private beta, and it uses a series of algorithms in the back end to basically digitize all those things you’ll accomplish by paging through tabs on your browser dozens of times.

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Plum

If you live in an urban area, or really are just a general human, you might have a problem trying to accrue some savings over time.

Victor Trokoudes certainly had this problem — saying that he basically had no savings by the time he was in his 30s. So that’s where the idea for Plum, which keeps track of your bills to figure out places you can spend less and save more, in addition to learning about your spending patterns.

“It’s called it the power of the nudge, enabling people to make decisions to make them better off,” Trokoudes said referring to Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler. “Plum is a chatbot that uses AI to manage peoples’ money the way they should, but can’t be bothered to.”

Trokoudes said the app has 50,000 users since launching in January and is growing around 20% month-over-month.

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Mira

Life insurance is always a tricky prospect, especially when it comes to people that might be higher-risk. But even though someone might fall into a “high-risk” bucket, like having Diabetes, Shuo Zhang said that they might not actually be a really high-risk customer.

“In our online application, we can integrate into 40 unique sources of medical, financial and tracking data, meaning we have much greater insights into [a customer],” he said. “We know [they] eat healthy, [they] exercise frequently and have stable blood glucose levels. [They are] not as high risk as companies think.”

After a customer gets potentially flagged as someone who is high-risk, the insurer can refer them to Mira, which will do a deeper dive to figure out the actual risk profile of that customer. They are then able to get a better deal on their life insurance than they might get right away from a typical insurer who has labeled them as a high-risk customer.

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MailHaven

If you’re an Amazon Prime customer and you get a ton of packages from them, the anxiety around being there to receive packages — or hope they haven’t been stolen from your doorstep — is definitely A Thing.

So while there have been plenty of attempts to try to figure out a smarter delivery service, such as on-demand startups that might pick up your returns and such, MailHaven is looking to go a little more retro. The company sells a literal box that goes in front of your home which shipping companies can access and dump your packages in automatically, as well as pick up packages that need to be returned.

“Wouldn’t you love it if every time you needed to do a return, you could keep it in a device in front of your house and have it picked up conveniently. because there’s nothing like this and there’s $45 billion lost annually in productivity,” CEO Kela Ivonye says. “27 million people have to deal with driving to a post office or signing up with an expensive on-demand delivery service.”

It seems like kind of a first-world problem, especially with the price tag of $399 with a $15 per month subscription. But as commerce increasingly goes online, something like MailHaven may be the answer to making sure everyone gets their packages on time.

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LaborVoices

When a clothing brand is looking to spin up its production, it’s going to need to tap into an array of factories to actually get those clothes made — but it’s not always possible to know the exact conditions of every factory all the time.

“All of us today are wearing clothes, but none of us know whether the clothes were wearing right now were made with child labor or forced labor,” LaborVoices CEO Kohl Gill said. “The dirty truth is the brands don’t know either. They don’t know whats going on in the factories around the world.”

That’s where LaborVoices comes in, where factory employees send information on their working conditions to the service through their phones. LaborVoices then connects with the brands to ensure that everything is operating to their standards.

Gill said that brands still spend billions of dollars on inspections and trying to manage their factory supply, but the processes can still be corrupted and unsuccessful. In the past year, LaborVoices has booked more than $600,000 in revenue, he said.

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Sendoso

You probably dread getting up in the morning and starting off your workday with dozens (or hundreds) or emails — and when it comes to trying to find potential customers, you’re fighting for attention with that entire pile of emails.

So it’s no surprise that the pendulum has swung back to people getting excited about getting real, physical mail, and businesses are catching on to that.

Sendoso gives those businesses a way to send actual stuff to potential clients, customers, or anything along those lines as a way to get their attention. Businesses can go through Salesforce to figure out how to track and ship something that might pique the interest of a potential customer.

“It’s harder than ever to engage prospects and customers with emails and phone calls,” CEO Kris Rudeegraap said. “Companies are turning to other outreach like high impact direct mail, but that’s extremely difficult for companies to operationalize, scale, and track ROI of direct mail.”

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